A recently ended court case was instigated by an employee filing an action requesting the court to rule that the immediate termination of his employment relationship by the employer was invalid. The employer decided to do so because of an alleged damage caused to its reputation by the employee providing his unfounded opinions on the employer to an information website, which subsequently published them in an article. The case gradually proceeded to the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic. The court assessed in particular the collision of the right to the protection of the employer’s reputation and the right to the freedom of expression of an employee, and their link with employment relations.
In its decision, the Supreme Court reminded that freedom of expression could in principle be restricted in order to avoid serious interference with personal rights (including the reputation of a legal person – the employer). One of the legitimate options of the freedom of expression is justified critique, but it must be factual, specific, reasonable, and based on true (and substantiated) facts. If the critique does not fulfil these criteria, it is an overindulgence that may constitute an unjustified interference with good reputation. This interference is also important in labour-law relations. The right to the freedom of expression is further limited by certain obligations arising from employment, where such freedom must be assessed in the light of the employee’s obligations towards the employer, which also include a certain level of loyalty.
Having assessed the relevant circumstances (the employee as such, his position, etc.), the Supreme Court arrived at the conclusion that this case constituted a particularly serious breach of work duties, and upheld the decision of the first-instance court that had rejected the action. The termination of the employment relationship was therefore rightful.