As per Article 107 of the Code of Civil Procedure No. 6100 ("CCP"), a plaintiff is entitled to initiate a lawsuit with a minimum amount to be increased thereafter, if the total amount of the claim cannot be precisely determined at the beginning of the lawsuit. The preamble of the CCP indicates that the rationale behind this regulation seeks to avoid the potential risk of exorbitant litigation expenses, subject to pro rata calculation, which may be imposed on the plaintiff at the conclusion of the litigation. Following the Court of Appeals' numerous decisions, all of which had pointed in different doctrinal directions, the Court of Appeals 1st Board of Presidency eventually urged that, due to the proliferation of contradictory opinions on this issue, a single unifying decision that would bind all civil courts should be provided, and thus sent the file to the Court of Appeals Grand General Board ("Board").

As per the Law on the Court of Appeals No. 2797, the Board is the authorized body in charge of unifying judgments in order to reconcile conflicting opinions expressed in decisions of the various chambers of the Court of Appeals with respect to the same question. Such unifying judgments are final; they cannot be appealed or objected to. Within this framework, the Board observed that several contradictory decisions had been issued by the Court of Appeals on the question of whether lawsuits concerning employee receivables can be filed with a request for an unspecified amount.[1]

Since the subject of the request for the unification of judgments related to the issue of employee receivables, the Board first defined what an "employee receivable" is. In this context, the Board declared that each receivable request made by an employee who works under an employment agreement, as per the Labor Law No. 4857 ("Labor Law"), shall be deemed as an "employee receivable."

The Board categorized employee receivables as follows: (i) receivables arising from the dismissal of an employee, which might be requested following the termination of an employment agreement, and (ii) other receivables, which do not pertain to the termination of an employment agreement.

For item (i) above, which includes severance payments, notice payments and annual leave payments, the amount of the employee receivable can be mutually decided upon by the parties to the employment agreement, and therefore, the amount of each of the aforementioned payment items is determinable. However, for receivables that fall under item (ii) above, which include unpaid wages, overtime payments, weekend wages, and accrued vacation time payments, the circumstances are quite different. Such receivables should be considered receivables with unspecified amounts, if they are determined at the sole discretion of the presiding judge, based on the statements of witnesses and on the evidence submitted by the parties during the course of litigation.

Consequently, the Board decided that there are various types of employee receivables, and that they exhibit different characteristics. Furthermore, even if certain employee receivables could be considered as belonging to the same category and carrying the same characteristics, they cannot always be pre-classified as "specified" or "unspecified" in terms of their amount. Therefore, the Board ruled that courts should determine whether the receivable in question is specified or unspecified on a case-by-case basis, and declared that a receivable cannot be classified as specified or unspecified merely on the basis of its type. Taking all of these considerations into account, the Board finally ruled that it was not necessary to unify the judgments on this matter, on the grounds that unifying the judgments would not serve the goal of establishing an abstract, comprehensive and normative legal structure when unifying judgments.

[1] Decision of the Board dated December 15, 2017 and numbered 2016/6 E. and 2017/5 K., which was published in the Official Gazette on June 29, 2018.

This article was first published in Legal Insights Quarterly by ELIG Gürkaynak Attorneys-at-Law in September 2018. A link to the full Legal Insight Quarterly may be found here.

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