Marian Härtel
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No claim to identical credentials in agile project teams

Employees may request a qualified reference from their employer upon leaving. This also applies to agile project teams that work according to the so-called Scrum method. However, they are not entitled to a certain certificate wording including a certain evaluation already because the employer has issued a corresponding certificate to another team member. This was decided by the Lübeck Labor Court.

The plaintiff was employed by the defendant as a test engineer in the area of product qualification according to the so-called Scrum method. This is a form of agile work that largely dispenses with technical instructions from the employer to the group members. Instead, self-regulation and self-control of the working group takes place.

After termination of the employment relationship, the defendant issued the plaintiff and another member of the project team with an employer’s reference. The plaintiff felt that he had been evaluated less favorably than this employee and demanded that his reference be adjusted. In support of his claim, he argued that he was already entitled to an identical reference because individual work performance had only played a subordinate role in the Scrum team due to the typical nature of this method and team goals had taken precedence. Accordingly, the performance was to be evaluated at least as much as that of the colleague.

The labor court dismissed the action. Even in agile work environments using the so-called Scrum method, individual performance is measurable and is the sole determining factor for the job description as well as the performance evaluation of a reference. The use of certain modern working methods does not prevent this, even if the method used prioritizes the group result. The Scrum method does not prevent individual performance evaluation in principle. Since, in the opinion of the court, the plaintiff had not substantiated the better performance from his point of view, the action was unsuccessful. Furthermore, it may even be contradictory if, on the one hand, the plaintiff refers to identically performed activities within the agile work group that are to be evaluated in the same way and, on the other hand, demands that certain work tasks that are handled in a special way be characterized as singled out.

The judgment is not – yet – legally binding. The Labor Court allowed the appeal.

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Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.


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