Sommelier of the prestige Amstel Hotel dismissed unfairly because of drinking wine

The interim relief judge of the Amsterdam District Court has ordered the Amstel Hotel to give a sommelier back his job, subject to a penalty of max € 75.000. The sommelier (wine steward), who worked for this employer for over 33 years, was dismissed with immediate effect because he supposedly been drinking wine during working hours. Dutch lawyer Sander Schouten, specialized in Dutch employment law, tells what happened in this extraordinary labour suit.


Dismissal with immediate effect

The Amstel Hotel wrote in a letter to the sommelier that he was fired because he violated the company rules by drinking alcoholic beverages in the night of 18 November 2013. Further (alleged) violations consisted of inciting or inviting others to drink as well, taking share The portion of registered capital of a private or public limited company
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bottles without permission, refusing to tell the truth and refusing to comply with the employer’s internal investigation.

Judge: witness testimonies insufficient prove

In the sommelier’s view he was unfairly dismissed. He therefore sued the employer and demanded to be let back to work immediately. And with success. The judge agrees with the sommelier that it is remarkable that out of 9 heard witnesses only 1 has testified against the sommelier. The evidence therefore does not hold up. The judge even questions whether or not the testimonies were given completely voluntarily and hinted the employer might have put some pressure on his staff.

Judge: employer himself in breach of company rules

Besides, the judge is of the opinion that neither the Amstel Hotel itself has consequently followed its company rules regarding the consumption of alcohol. It was the employer himself, after all, who offered the staff beer at the night in question. Seen these circumstance there is no urgent cause for dismissal with immediate effect, says the judge. The dismissal was reversed. And fair enough: how can a sommelier be denied a glass of wine while his colleagues have permission to have a few drinks?