Is dismissal permitted following social media post?
In an appeal case, an employee of a care organisation in Nijmegen who was shown the door because of her criticism about the coronavirus voiced on LinkedIn, has had her dismissal reviewed. The court in Arnhem ruled that the employee had crossed a line and that her employer was entitled to dismiss her.
Freedom of speech weighs heavily. But there are limits, says Stefan Sagel, Professor of Labour Law at Leiden University and a lawyer with De Brauw in Amsterdam.
‘An employer doesn’t have to accept everything. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right that applies primarily between government and citizens. When it comes to an employer, it’s still important but in a less direct way. It’s a factor when assessing what an employer and employee can expect of each other in the sense of being a good employer and a good employee. An employer is allowed to say: this is unacceptable. It’s about what is fair and reasonable.’
Not only is the substance and the tone of the comment (insulting or threatening) considered, the context is also relevant. ‘Imagine a holiday snapshot on Facebook of you standing in front of a ski lift with two ski poles in your hand, showing your QR and writing underneath: “Ridiculous - this QR code!”, that’s allowed. On Facebook you have slightly more freedom. But LinkedIn is a business network. You might be smartly dressed wearing a suit and tie, or displaying the company logo on your work uniform. That links you to the company” says Sagel in De Stentor (article in Dutch).
Niet alleen de inhoud van de boodschap en de toonzetting (beledigend of bedreigend), weegt mee. Ook de context is relevant. ,,Een vakantiekiekje op Facebook waarbij je met twee skistokken in de hand voor een skilift staat en je je QR-code moet laten zien en je schrijft daaronder: ‘Belachelijk die QR-code’, dat kan. Op Facebook heb je iets meer vrijheid. LinkedIn is een zakelijk netwerk. Daar sta je bijvoorbeeld keurig in pak met das, logo van bedrijf op je werkkleding. Je staat wel gelinkt aan het bedrijf” aldus Sagel in De Stentor.