May a Staff, Who has Undersigned a Certificate of Release, File a Lawsuit Arising Therefrom?
In our legal system, “release” constitutes one of the cases terminating a debt and eliminates the responsibility to fulfill an obligation in legal terms. In addition, “release” eliminates the obligor’s obligation and terminates the obligee’s right to receivable. In the Labor Law, certificate of release is an agreement which is signed between a laborer and an employer and incorporates the matters such as “the laborer has no longer a retrospective right to receivable and/or indemnity against the employer since the employer has compensated the laborer for the laborer’s receivables to which the laborer has become entitled during the period that the laborer has worked for his employer”. It should be stated that it is of great importance for a certificate of release, which will be obtained from a laborer, to bear the conditions of validity; given the fact that the Labor Law is a legal discipline protecting the laborer. A certificate release, which has been prepared without considering the conditions for validity, shall not be effective even if it has been undersigned by the laborer.
The conditions necessary for a certificate of release to be valid are as follows:
- The release agreement must be in writing,
- As from the termination of the contract, a period of minimum one month must elapse as of the date of release,
- The type (e.g. salary, overtime wage, vacation payment for the annual leave not taken, severance pay, notice pay) and amount of the receivable relevant to the release must be specified expressly,
- The payment must be made in full, considering the amount of the entitlement, and through the channel of a bank.
The release agreements or certificates of release, which do not bear the conditions referred to above, shall conclusively be null and void, even if they have been undersigned by the laborer.
Release agreement issued while the employment relationship is ongoing, and the one-month period
It should be stated that the certificates of release, issued while the employment relationship is ongoing, are deemed to be invalid pursuant to the jurisprudences of the Supreme Court of Appeals.
In case the employment relationship between the laborer and the employer is ongoing, such certificate of release issued in this period is deemed to be invalid by the reason that the laborer might be misguided by the employer. Therefore, a certificate release is valid only in case it is issued after termination of the employment relationship.
In this period, the laborer is in a position entirely dependent on the employer, and it is possible for the laborer to resort to undersign a release agreement contrary to his will in order to receive a part of his labor receivables as immediate as possible or to ensure the continuity of the employment relationship in spite of the employment security-related provisions; and the Supreme Court decisions which gained stability are in this direction.
“Pursuant to the established jurisprudences of our Chamber, the release agreements issued while the employment relationship is ongoing are invalid. In this period, the laborer is in a position entirely dependent on the employer, and it is possible for the laborer to resort to undersign a release agreement contrary to his will in order to receive a part of his labor receivables as immediate as possible or to ensure the continuity of the employment relationship in spite of the employment security-related provisions; and our Chamber’s judicial practices which gained stability are in this direction.” (The 22nd Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, the decision numbered 2017/6566 E., 2017/6234 K. and dated 27.03.2017)
The article 420 of the Turkish Obligations Code numbered 6098 states that there should be at least 1-month period between the date of the certificate of release and the date of termination of the contract.
“The release agreement on the laborer’s receivable due from the employer must be in writing; and as from the termination of the contract, a period of minimum one month must elapse as of the date of release”.
The statutory provision states that, as from the termination of the employment contract between the laborer and the employer, a period of minimum 1 month must elapse as of the date of release and that this requirement must apply. In case this mandatory requirement is not fulfilled, it is not possible to say that there is a valid certificate of release and besides, it is necessary to wait for expiration of the one-month period following the termination in order to issue a certificate of release, even in the terminations based on the arguments of valid and justifiable reason. This is because, the one-month waiting period relates to the issuance time of release agreements and is not a circumstance related to discharge. In other words, the payment dates, pertaining to the laborer’s rights, e.g. severance pay, notice pay, vacation payment, etc., which become payable due to the termination, are not deemed to have been postponed for a period of one month. Therefore, upon these receivables become due, the employer may be requested to pay these receivables.
In conclusion, as the details have been explained above, in order for a release covering the Law of Obligations and the Labor Law becomes valid, it is necessary that the release has been issued in writing and that there is at least 1-month period between the date of release and the date of termination of the employment contract and that the type and amount of the receivable relevant to the release have been specified and that the payment has been made in full and through the channel of a bank. It is prescribed that the certificate of release shall be invalid in case the above conditions have not taken place. Furthermore, a certificate of release does not create any consequences in the existence of an employment contract which is still ongoing.
In order for a certificate of release to be valid and to create consequences, it is necessary that the contract between the obligee and the obligor or between the laborer and the employer has terminated and that there is at least 1-month period between the date of release and the contract termination date. These are mandatory conditions. As also stated, pursuant to the jurisprudences of the Supreme Court, if there is a contract which is still effective, a certificate of release shall be invalid even if it has been issued. That being the case, it will be of great importance to act mandatorily in accordance with the information furnished above and within the scope of the legislation and the Supreme Court’s jurisprudences.