About today's decision by the Berlin Regional Court in the Boivin case

Statement by the Max Planck Society

December 06, 2021

Today, the Berlin Regional Court has granted an application filed by Ms Boivin's lawyers for a preliminary injunction. This means that the MPG may not enforce the President's decision to remove Ms Boivin’s leadership functions until the court has come to a final decision in the proceedings. The dispute before the Regional Court was exclusively related to a procedural matter. The allegations by the MPG brought against Ms Boivin were not the subject of the hearing and played no role in the court's decision.

"This is disappointing insofar as this ruling does not take into account the welfare of the employees at the Institute,” says the Secretary General of the Max Planck Society, Rüdiger Willems. “The Max Planck Society’s Executive Committee will therefore discuss this week how we can control the situation at the Institute and how to adequately protect the employees. In addition, the Max Planck Society will appeal the ruling.”

The background to the legal dispute was the Max Planck Society’s decision to withdraw Ms Boivin's leadership function for her department. This decision was preceded by a lengthy and intensive investigation of a number of allegations, which was carried out by an independent committee with equal representation (men and women/internal and external). The (standing) Scientific Committee appointed by the Max Planck Society’s Senate, consisting of members from all three Sections of the MPG, had concurred with the findings of the investigative committee on scientific and non-scientific misconduct and recommended to the Executive Committee and the President that Ms Boivin’s leadership function should be withdrawn and resources available to her reduced.

However, Ms Boivin would have remained a Scientific Member of the Max Planck Society under the law governing associations, and would have had research funds at her disposal enabling her to continue to carry out independent research work. Ms Boivin had initially accepted the amended contract through her lawyer in written form and without any reservations, but then applied to the Berlin Regional Court for a preliminary injunction to reverse the withdrawal of her leadership functions.

From the MPG's point of view, the withdrawal of the management functions was unavoidable and urgently necessary in order to protect the Institute’s workforce because numerous, massive deficits had emerged in the supervision of the staff under Boivin’s care, particularly regarding female early career researchers, and in the handling of a research project of a (female) research group leader. The President had temporarily transferred the management of the department to the Vice President.

In accordance with the statutes, the MPG's bodies had been involved in the process via the Executive Committee and the Scientific Committee of the Senate. The procedural question that was at the core of the court hearing/dispute posted a dilemma for the MPG insofar that it could either choose the path of an accelerated decision (which it did), but run the risk that the court would decide that the Senate had not been correctly involved, or it could involve the Senate, but subsequently fail in the labour court because it did not comply with the two-week deadline (according to § 626 (2) BGB).

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