The Supreme Court released ex-employees from incurring costs

The Judicial Chamber on Civil Cases in its recent Ruling1 once again consolidated guarantees to employees and placed their rights and position above the interests of the employer.

The employee brought an action against his ex-employer for declaring illegal the order on dismissal, restoring him to work, collecting salary arrears from the defendant in his favor, average earnings for the time of forced absenteeism and compensation for moral damage. During the consideration of this dispute, it became necessary to conduct a forensic examination, the payment of which was assigned to the employee, requesting its appointment. After the courts of the first and appellate instances refused to satisfy his claims, the employee sued to collect costs in his favor, referring to the application of Article 393 of the Labor Code of the Russian Federation. 

The courts of the first, appellate and cassation instances dismissed the claim, as they considered, that it was impossible to impose on the employer legal costs, that arose not on his initiative, and due to the fact, that the examination did not affect the conclusions of the courts, since the dismissal was recognized as legal.

But the Supreme Court found the employee`s complaint to be satisfied and noted that the courts of the first, appellate and cassation instances had committed significant violations. 

The Judicial Chamber concluded that despite the fact of referring of the courts to the voluntary payment of the forensic examination by the claimant, the refusal to reimburse him for the costs was contrary to the exception established by Article 393 of the Labor Code. As a general rule, the obligation to bear costs is imposed by the court on the party whose claim was not satisfied or is proportionally distributed between the plaintiff and the defendant. However, the labor legislation exempts employees from incurring costs and fees when bringing claims arising from labor relationship. This rule also applies in cases when all expenses are paid voluntarily, because its purpose is to provide the employee, as the weaker party in the labor relationship, with equal access to justice with the employer and to ensure his right to legal defence. 

The Supreme Court also declared erroneous the argument of the cassation instance on the issue of non-application of Article 393 of the Labor Code, noting the incorrect interpretation of the Resolution of the Plenum of the Supreme Court No. 15 dated May 29, 2018. The Judicial Chamber referring to this Resolution clarified that employees, bringing actions arising from labor relationship, should be released from incurring costs regardless from the results of consideration of their claims, including the cases of partial or complete refusal to satisfy them. 

To sum up, the Supreme Court`s ruling exempts ex-employees from the obligation to bear costs and fees in labor disputes. The judicial act again demonstrates the focus of Russian court`s policy on supporting employees as a weaker and economically unprotected subject. 

This decision once more time proves, that employees are in fact provided not with guarantees to protect their rights, as the weaker party of legal relationship, but with opportunities to abuse their rights, since such rights make it possible to produce lawsuits against employers for any "offense" without any consequences, in particular material, for the employee.

Indeed, employees in some cases are definitely not provided with sufficient financial, legal and other resources to protect their violated rights, so the removal by the Supreme Court of this burden of payment, especially taking into account the lengths of legal proceedings in Russian courts, can have a beneficial effect on the employees` situation. On the other hand, the “pro-employees” approach of legislation and judicial practice gives a wide range of opportunities for ex-employees to abuse their position, for example, by deliberately delaying the process in order to increase the amounts of compensation and payments imposed on their employers. In any case, this Supreme Court`s ruling will undoubtedly influence the legal practice in the sphere of labor disputes, but only time will demonstrate whether it will be positive or not. 

1Supreme Court`s Ruling of May dated 31.05.2021 in the case No. 41-КГ21-14-К4