In Thailand, the Labor Court has both exclusive and limited subject matter jurisdiction over disputes between employers or employees and other matters related to labor law. According to Section 8 of the Act on the Establishment and Procedure of the Labor Court of B.E. 2522 (1979) (“the Act”) the Labor Court has jurisdiction over such matters as disputes over rights and duties according to an employment agreement or an agreement regarding employment conditions, disputes over rights and duties arising from the Labor Protection Act of B.E. 2541 (1998) or the Labor Relations Act B.E. 2518 (1975), or appeals of administrative decisions, such as those by the Labor Relations Committee. Section 8(5) allows the Labor Court jurisdiction over wrongful acts (as defined in Section 420 of the Civil and Commercial Code and which would normally be within the jurisdiction of the Civil Court) if such acts relate to the employment relationship. However, the jurisdiction of the Labor Court is often disputed by the parties and is not always clear. A few examples are as follows:
- In Judgment of the Chief Justice of the Labor Court No. 24/2553, Employee held the position of manager and head of finance. Employer accused Employee of failing to transfer company revenue into the company’s bank account on several occasions. Employer also accused Auditor of failing in her duty to inform Employer. Employer sued Employee and Auditor in Labor Court to be jointly liable for damages. The Chief Justice held that since Auditor had no employment relationship with Employer, the entire dispute fell within Section 420 of the Civil and Commercial Code and that the Labor Court lacked jurisdiction.
- In Judgment of the Chief Justice of the Labor Court No. 46/2555, Employee argued that an agreement with Former Employer was unfair on the grounds that it required Employee to refrain from working for a competing company for 2 years after Employee’s resignation and that Employee must receive permission from Former Employer to work for a competing company after that 2 year period. The case was initially filed in Bangkok South Civil Court. The Chief Justice held that the dispute fell within the jurisdiction of the Labor Court because the issue was whether the Former Employer had unreasonably taken advantage of Employee according to Section 14/1 of the Labor Protection Act of B.E. 2541 (1998).
- In Judgment of the Chief Justice of the Labor Court No. 18/2556, Former Employee reported to the Department of Labor Protection and Welfare that he was wrongfully terminated by Employer; that he worked for Employer for 11 years, 9 months; that he worked 12 hours a day without any holidays; and that he received a salary of only 9,000 baht per month. The Department ordered Employer to pay severance of 65,000 baht with interest to Former Employee. Employer sued Former Employee and the Department in Labor Court arguing that the Department’s order was issued based on Former Employee’s false allegations and should be withdrawn. Furthermore, Employer alleged that the Department’s order caused Employer to suffer damage to his reputation and to possibly face unwarranted criminal charges. Therefore, Former Employee’s false allegations constituted a wrongful act. The Chief Justice held that the circumstances relating to the determination of whether to withdraw the Department’s order and whether Former Employee committed a wrongful act damaging Employer’s reputation arose from the same facts. Therefore, it would be convenient for both matters to be tried in the same court. The Chief Justice held that the Labor Court had jurisdiction under Section 8(5) of the Act.
It should also be explained that according to Section 9 of the Act, the judgment of the Chief Justice of the Labor Court is considered final. In any case, Thai labor law is complex. Therefore, both employers and employees must always consult with competent legal counsel when dealing with disputes relating to an employment relationship.
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