Mr Herbai, an employee of a Hungarian bank, published blog posts on his personal HR management knowledge-sharing website. The website described him as an expert in HR management who worked at a large bank. However, it did not mention the bank's name.
The bank dismissed Mr Herbai as it considered that in posting the blogs he had damaged its economic interests and breached its confidentiality standards.
Mr Herbai argued that his dismissal breached his freedom of expression rights under Article 10.
The ECHR balanced the employee's rights to freedom of expression against the bank's rights to protect its business interests and identified four key elements for assessment:
On consideration of these four elements the ECHR found that the employer did not demonstrate a justification for restricting Mr Herbai's right to freedom of expression and therefore had violated his rights under Article 10.
This case is a reminder that even when there are contractual or other legal provisions governing an employee’s ability to share information, their right to freedom of expression will be a relevant factor when considering the legality of any action taken against the employee, such as a dismissal.
It also provides useful confirmation of the elements the courts will consider when balancing the rights of both the employer and the employee. Restricting an employee's right to freedom of expression must be necessary and proportionate.
If employers are to do so, they should ensure they have sufficient evidence to justify their actions. Of course, each case will vary depending on the facts, however in this case applying the four elements, the dismissal was not justified.