The state of North Rhine-Westphalia has rightly refused in two cases to grant compensation to meat processing companies for continuing to pay employees who were in home quarantine at the plant after coronavirus outbreaks. This was decided by the Higher Administrative Court (OVG) on Friday in two model cases, thus overturning judgments of the administrative courts of Minden and Münster. Due to their fundamental importance, the OVG has granted leave to appeal on a point of law to the Federal Administrative Court in each case. Around 7000,<> similar lawsuits are still pending at the administrative courts of Minden and Münster.

Reiner Burger

Political correspondent in North Rhine-Westphalia.

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In the cases now decided by the OVG, subcontractors who employed their employees at large meat-processing plants in Rheda-Wiedenbrück and Coesfeld had sued. There were major corona outbreaks in May and June 2020, which is why the responsible authorities closed the factories and ordered home quarantine for the workers.

According to the plaintiffs, their employees were entitled to compensation for loss of earnings under the Infection Protection Act. These were paid by the companies to their employees on behalf of the competent authority. The subsequent applications for reimbursement were rejected by the state – and rightly so, as the Higher Administrative Court of Münster has now decided. Because a reimbursement of paid loss of earnings compensation is only possible if the respective employees have no claim to payment of wages against their employer, according to the court. However, that right existed in both cases because, according to the Civil Code, the decisive factor is essentially whether the employee is absent from work for 'a relatively insignificant period of time' through no fault of his own.

In the two cases, there is no evidence that the workers were responsible for their quarantine, according to the OVG. One ties in with an older decision of the Federal Court of Justice in a comparable case, which had been based on the six-week period for continued payment of wages in the event of illness.