Forged signature - what are the penalties?


When employing an employee, the employer trusts him, counting on his loyalty, without which cooperation between the parties to the employment relationship is impossible. Therefore, the employee's actions consisting in deliberately misleading him should be considered undesirable and requiring an adequate response from the employer. A special case of such unacceptable actions by an employee is a forged signature on documents.

Employee Responsibilities

Pursuant to Art. 22 § 1 of the Labor Code, by establishing an employment relationship, the employee undertakes to perform work of a specific type for the employer and under his direction and at the place and time designated by the employer. The employer, on the other hand, undertakes to hire an employee for remuneration. The employee's duties are presented in more detail in Art. 100 of the Labor Code, where it was stated that he is obliged to perform work conscientiously and diligently and to follow the instructions of his superiors concerning work, provided that they are not inconsistent with the law or the employment contract.

The employee is obliged in particular to:

  • observe the working hours established in the workplace;

  • comply with the work regulations and the order established in the workplace;

  • comply with the provisions and rules of occupational health and safety, as well as fire regulations;

  • take care of the welfare of the workplace, protect its property and keep secret information, the disclosure of which could expose the employer to damage;

  • observe the secrecy specified in separate regulations;

  • observe the rules of social coexistence in the workplace.

Falsified signature by an employee

In the light of the aforementioned regulations of the Labor Code, there is no doubt that any actions of an employee consisting in misleading the employer or other persons in connection with the work performed are unacceptable and constitute a breach of employee obligations. One of such unacceptable actions is the forgery of documents, in particular the forgery of signatures. Forging (counterfeiting) a signature consists in placing an imitation of another person's signature on the document and using such a document as if it were authentic.

Forged signature - order liability

Forged signature may, first of all, be treated as a breach of employee duties subject to order liability regulated in Art. 108–113 of the Labor Code. An employee's act may be treated by the employer as a failure to comply with the established organization and order in the work process, for which the employee can be assessed:

  • a reprimand

  • or a punishment of reprimand.

However, an order penalty may not be applied after 2 weeks from becoming aware of a breach of the employee obligation and after 3 months from committing this breach.

An order penalty may be applied only after hearing the employee.

Forged signature - material liability

If, as a result of the forged signature by the employee, the employer suffered a loss, he may bring him to material liability regulated by the provisions of Art. 114–122 of the Labor Code, which consists in the employee's demand to pay a certain amount of money as compensation.

In order to apply this type of liability to an employee, the employer must prove (prove) that the employee who, as a result of non-performance or improper performance of employee duties - i.e. in the case in question as a result of a forged signature on a document - caused the employer damage in a certain amount due to his fault.

Compensation is determined in the amount of the damage caused, but if the employee did not cause it intentionally, it may not exceed the amount of three months' remuneration due to the employee on the day of the damage. If the employee caused the damage intentionally, he / she is obliged to repair it in full.

Example 1.

The employee was obliged by the employer to pay one of the contractors a certain amount of cash in cash as payment for the service provided to the employer. Although the employee transferred this amount to the contractor, he forgot to get his signature on the receipt for the receipt of this amount. Therefore, he forged the contractor's signature, hoping that - since the money had been transferred - he would no longer demand it.

Indeed, the contractor did not request the payment again, and what is more, he sent a letter to the aforementioned employer in which he confirmed the receipt of the money, informing at the same time that he was doing so because he had not signed any receipts before. Following receipt of this letter, the employer found that the signature on the receipt previously submitted to him by the employee was forged. In the described facts, the employer has not suffered any damage resulting from the forgery, and therefore there are no grounds for imposing material liability on the employee. It may, however, consider the application of liability of order or other sanctions described below.

Forged signature - termination of the employment contract

Forged signature may be treated by the employer as a serious breach of basic employee duties justifying the termination of the employment contract without notice due to the employee's fault (Article 52 § 1 point 1 of the Labor Code). Termination of an employment contract in this manner may not, however, take place one month after the employer has received information about the circumstances justifying the termination of the contract. If one month has elapsed, the employer may terminate the employment contract with notice, as the application of this procedure is not limited in time.

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Forged signature - criminal liability

Regardless of the above-described legal measures relating to liability regulated by labor law, an employee may be subject to criminal liability if his act constitutes a crime.

Pursuant to Art. 270 § 1 of the Criminal Code, who, in order to use it as authentic, forges or forges a document or such document as authentic, is subject to a fine, imprisonment or imprisonment from 3 months to 5 years. signature will always be tantamount to forgery of the document on which the signature is affixed. Such a document is not authentic, as the signature appearing on it is not, in fact, the signature of the person who allegedly made it.

Importantly, however, under criminal law, a specific definition of a document has been adopted, narrower than the colloquial understanding, according to which a document is often treated as any content recorded in writing. Pursuant to Art. 115 § 14 of the Penal Code, a document is any object or other recorded medium with which a specific law is related or which, due to its content, constitutes evidence of a law, legal relationship or circumstances having legal significance. The document will not be, for example, a letter with occasional congratulations addressed to someone.

With the possible offense of forgery described in Art. 270 § 1 of the Penal Code, we will be dealing with:

  • a document was forged, e.g. by placing a forged signature on it,

  • this was done in order to use this document as authentic,

  • and the content of the document has legal significance.

Decision of the Supreme Court - Criminal Chamber of April 16, 2002, IV KKN 41/01

There can be no doubt that the crime under Art. 270 § 1 of the Penal Code is one of the targeted offenses, in connection with the fact that the action "in order to use (a document) to be authentic" belongs to the group of its features. Therefore, the behavior of the perpetrator who forges or modifies the document for a purpose other than specified in the act (e.g. to check whether the ink in the pen reservoir has run out of ink) may not constitute a crime.

It is worth adding that if the forging of a signature (document) has the hallmarks of a crime, this will usually lead to the employer applying more severe sanctions to the employee. In particular, in such cases, the employer, deciding to terminate the employment contract without notice due to the employee's fault, may rely not only on the above-mentioned Art. 52 § 1 point 1 of the Labor Code (serious breach of basic employee duties), but also under Art. 52 § 1 point 2, according to which the reason for the termination of the contract in this manner may be the committing by the employee of a crime during the term of the employment contract, which prevents him from continuing to employ him in the position held, if the crime is obvious or has been confirmed by a final judgment.

In summary, the falsification of a signature on a document by an employee and his use of the document as if it were genuine is behavior that the employer should not tolerate and which should result in the implementation of appropriate disciplinary measures against the employee, proportionate to the seriousness of the breach of employee duties.