Can a demonstrating civil servant be fired?
A discussion is currently being held about whether a demonstrating policy official employed by the Municipality of The Hague, who is also a local councillor in Rijswijk, can remain in office after she participated in Extinction Rebellion’s recent climate protest. The VVD party in The Hague claims this behaviour is unacceptable and that it constitutes grounds for dismissal.
‘The fact that you’re a civil servant, doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to demonstrate’, says Barend Barentsen, Professor of Labour Law in Leiden. ‘But it will lead to a conflict with your employer faster than when you work at the corner bakery.’
Particularly if a criminal offence has been committed, a conflict can arise. Barentsen explains: ‘Case law has shown that when a civil servant commits a criminal offence, that person is more likely to suffer in terms of dismissal, than the average employee. Even if that offence was committed in the person’s own free time.’
So it comes down to whether Schwenke, an official working at the Urban Development Department of the Municipality of The Hague committed a criminal offence. The right to demonstrate allows for certain friction and so far she has not been convicted of any offences. However, The Hague VVD party did not let that stop it, arguing that it is ‘grounds for dismissal’.