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Public-sector managers, too, are entitled to freedom of speech

July 2010 - Employment. Legal Developments by Norrbom Vinding Law Firm, member of ius laboris.

More articles by this firm.

The Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman has established once again that public-sector employees enjoy a high degree of freedom of speech.

Public-sector employees are to a large extent entitled to speak their minds about decisions by the political executive that may significantly affect the future environment at the workplace. This includes human resource issues such as cutbacks. In this case, a local authority had used some unfortunate words about the managers' right to free speech, a mistake that did not pass unchallenged.  

A local authority was launching a cost-cutting exercise. In that connection, managers were instructed not to say anything negative about the exercise - whether on behalf of the local authority or on their own behalf.  

When the chief executive was asked about the consequences if a manager said something anyway, he allegedly answered that there would most likely be no consequences other than that the person would be in ‚Äėbad standing' with the chief executive.  

Incident was unfortunate
The Parliamentary Ombudsman decided to intervene when he heard about the matter in the press. The local authority made it clear that the managers were of course entitled to speak their minds as long as they did so on their own behalf and not on behalf of the local authority.   The Parliamentary Ombudsman agreed with the local authority that the incident was unfortunate, but since the local authority had taken steps to correct the situation, the Parliamentary Ombudsman did not take any further action.

Norrbom Vinding notes:

  • that, with its statement, the Parliamentary Ombudsman reinforces its former statements that public-sector managers enjoy a high degree of freedom of speech as long as they speak on their own behalf.