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Objective Criticism by Employees Doesn’t Justify Dismissal in Germany

Sep 29, 17 • Employment LawNo Comments

Critical or unfriendly remarks made by an employee to his employer are protected by the freedom of opinion. They are no justification for dismissal, as long as the argument is objective. This is what the Higher Labor Court (Landesarbeitsgericht, LAG) of Rhineland-Palatinate ruled on 6 October 2016.

Unfair dismissal claim granted

In the particular case, an employer dismissed an employee because the latter, when instructed by his superior to keep a work diary, replied with an e-mail containing criticism and certain insults. The employer was a university operated by the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The university accused the employee of having insulted his superior as a “control freak” and of having disturbed peaceful cooperation.

Criticism protected by the freedom of opinion

The LAG of Rhineland-Palatinate now clarified, however, that critical comments from an employee do not impair the employer’s interest in protecting its honor or personality rights. Such impairment will only be deemed to occur in cases of defamation of a person or verbal injury. The freedom of opinion guarantees the protection of an employee’s critical comments or value judgements about certain measures taken by his company. These will have to be tolerated by the employer. The employer may only refuse to accept grossly unobjective attacks aimed at undermining a superior’s position.

Employment law advice in cases of insults

If you believe that your employees overstep the mark with their comments, please do not hesitate to seek advice from our experienced specialist attorneys for employment law. We will be pleased to help you!

Judgement of the Higher Labor Court of Rhineland-Palatinate dated 6 October 2016, 2 Sa 175/16, jurisPR-ArbR 6/2017 Note. 4

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Ellen Pusch

Ellen Pusch specializes in employment law and inheritance law at our Munich office. She drafts and optimizes employment agreements as well as specific types of termination agreements and assists with restructuring projects and M&A transactions (transfers of undertakings).

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