This is apparent from a decision of the court in The Hague which was made public yesterday.

Ash mix

The 55-year-old worked 20 hours a week at the DELA funeral home. One day in October 2021, she performed two cremations with an assistant. According to the protocol, the two employees must check if the remains of the previous cremation have been cleared before the new import.

After the second cremation, the ashes of the first deceased still remained in the ash funnel. As a result, the ashes of the two deceased were mixed together.


DELA informed the families of the deceased of the incident and ordered an investigation. Because the employee had not checked the funnel of ashes before the second cremation, she received an official warning and a low annual evaluation.

In the weeks that followed, the employee began to protest against these measures. She admitted to having made a mistake, but also pointed to the responsibility of the assistant as well as the inadequate procedures and technique. The woman felt disproportionately victimized and punished. At the end of that month, she called in sick.

“culture of concealment”

DELA urged the employee to leave the matter in abeyance, but she did the opposite. Thus, the relationship between the employee and the donor has become increasingly unpleasant. The woman ultimately accused the funeral organization of having a “culture of cover-up, in which a culture of fear, intimidation and abuse of power plays a significant role.”

DELA, in turn, thought that the employee, her partner and her lawyer had collided. After talks and external mediation failed, the funeral organization offered the woman a severance package of 20,000 euros in May 2022, but she did not accept. According to her, the incident had caused her trauma and burnout, and the proposal was insufficient.

To the court

DELA finally took legal action in July 2022 to have the employment contract terminated. According to the employer, this was the result of his mistake during the cremation, his overreaction to the reprimand and a disrupted working relationship. The employer did not want to pay the woman a penny more in severance pay.

According to the woman, DELA was not allowed to fire her because she was confused during her work due to a previous incident in which bone remains from a previous cremation were not disposed of. .

In the event of termination of the employment contract, she claimed a transitional indemnity of approximately 7,500 euros, the continuation of the payment during the notice period, various other indemnities and a severance indemnity of 200,000 euros.

judgment judge

A judgment released today shows that the High Court in The Hague allowed the DELA to fire the woman.

First, the judge finds that DELA rightly gave the woman an official warning because she had made mistakes during the cremations. The fact that his colleague may have also made mistakes, or that the procedures and technology are inadequate does not detract from this.

Nevertheless, according to the high court judge, the woman’s mistakes and her overreaction to the reprimand are not good reasons to put her on the street. However, the disrupted working relationship is. “The incident has become an irreconcilable conflict in which mutual trust has disappeared.”

Spicy review

THE pronunciation contains strong criticism of the behavior of the employer and the employee, which has led to “totally disrupted relations”. For example, the high court pointed out that DELA failed to do so, for example by failing to respond to the employee’s justified criticism.

On the other hand, the judge noted that the woman did nothing to defuse the situation. The judge of the high court even suspects the woman, her companion and her lawyer “of having amplified the conflict in order to obtain high compensation”. Another factor was that they threatened to go public with the incidents involving the ash mix.

Not 200,000 euros

Ultimately, the sub-district court found that neither the employee nor the employer engaged in “seriously culpable” behavior.

This means that the employee is entitled to continued salary payment during the three-month notice period and to a transition allowance of 7,500 euros. However, DELA does not have to pay him the severance indemnity of 200,000 euros and other indemnities.

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