Recently, the press has been actively discussing the order Prime Minister Pashinyan gave to customs officer to quit his job during his visit to Noragavit customs office several days ago.
The issue whether the prime minister had the right to give such an order to the employee has been under hot discussion.
Let us try to analyze the legitimacy of the order.
Entering the customs office and seeing the dirty flag on the floor, the Prime Minister got angry and told the employee in the room, “You’re going to file an application and quit your job.” Then he instructed to dismiss the other employees working in that room as well. Shortly afterwards, the Prime Minister wrote on his Facebook page that no citizen throwing the state flag under his feet should work in the Armenian government system.
Let us see what the law says regarding the state flag and “throwing it under one’s feet”.
According to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia, desecration of the coat of arms of the Republic of Armenia, the national flag of the Republic of Armenia shall be punished with a fine in the 100 to 150-fold amount of minimum salary or arrest for 1-3 months, or imprisonment for up to 1 year.
It means that a proceeding should have been initiated on charges of contempt of the flag in order to understand whether that specific person was the one who desecrated the flag, and only then conduct a preliminary investigation according to the requirements of the RA Code of Criminal Procedure, and make a verdict after court examination. Even in this case there is no mention in the legislation on dismissing the employee.
Let’s go ahead.
The Customs Officer is considered a public servant (RA Law on Public Service, 3.3). Thus, he is protected by a number of laws, namely, the Labor Code of the Republic of Armenia, the RA Law on Customs Service, the RA Law on Public Service.
The Labor Code of the Republic of Armenia clearly defines in what cases and who can dismiss a person from work. Article 113 stipulates that the employer shall have the right to rescind the employment contract concluded with the employee for an indefinite term, as well as the employment contract concluded for a fixed term before the end of the validity period. Subsequently, all the grounds for the termination of the contract with the employee are indicated.
However, we should pay attention to the word employer at the beginning of the sentence.
In this case, the employer is the State Revenue Committee, whose head appoints and dismisses the customs officers. Thus, only the state official who has employed the customs officer is eligible to dismiss him from work, and only in the presence of the grounds prescribed by law. In other words, Nikol Pashinyan has no right to give orders to dismiss a customs officer. In addition, since the customs officer is a public servant, his dismissal must be carried out only after initiating a disciplinary proceeding.
Let us address the Law on the Customs Service.
The law mentions that the customs officers may be subject to various types of disciplinary sanctions for the violation of the service discipline, such as a rebuke, admonition, severe admonition, a special rank reduction (but no more than two levels), lowering of the position of the customs officer (but not more than one level) application of material liability and exemption from customs service.
It should be noted that in the last 4 cases, it is necessary to conduct an internal investigation to prove that the person is guilty and that the dismissal is justified, and only after a positive conclusion is obtained, the person can be dismissed.
This law also stipulates the grounds for dismissing an employee, where more or less realistic points of reference are listed in paragraph 10: one or more violations of the disciplinary and ethical rules or regular violation of the disciplinary and ethical rules. However, if the washing and keeping the flag clean is not the person’s work duty, this provision cannot be applied either. An internal investigation should be conducted to find this out.
To conclude, Nikol Pashinyan has no legal power to order a customs officer to write a letter of resignation because, first of all, a person has the right to work guaranteed by the RA Constitution, and it is forbidden to force a person to resign against his will. And besides, Nikol Pashinyan is not the immediate supervisor of the employee and, hence, does not have such authority by the legislation of the Republic of Armenia.
It should be noted that yesterday there were reports in the media that the customs officer wrote a letter of resignation himself.