Freedom of expression for employees

Freedom of Expression

The Federal Constitution enshrines the principle of freedom of expression. In principle, employees may express themselves freely and hold political and religious opinions. The choice of appearance, and in particular of clothing, is also protected by the freedom of expression.

In the context of the employment relationship, the balance between the interests of the company and the employees' right to freedom of expression is sometimes difficult to find.


The employee's attire is a particular means of expression. It is part of the employee's personality that the employer must respect.

A secretary who wears a piercing, a worker who comes to work in flip-flops... Clothing can sometimes go against the employer's interests. The employer can give instructions on the employee's dress code. He must take into account the freedom of expression but also the risks of work accident or for the image of the company.

When an employee's attire causes conflict within the company, the employer must manage the situation with caution.

The employer must take action beforehand. It cannot simply dismiss the employee in question, even if her veil or provocative or revealing clothing causes tension within the company.

Wrongful Termination

Freedom of expression is a right protected by the Federal Constitution. However, when an employer dismisses an employee because of the exercise of a constitutional right, it is an abuse of rights.

However, the termination is not wrongful if the exercise of this right causes serious harm to the company or violates an obligation of the employee. What if the employee openly criticizes his employer? Or when an employee's veil causes conflict within the company?

Social networks

In the relative privacy of social networks, employees believe they are protected and can make inappropriate comments about their employer or colleagues. Situations of cyber harassment and violation of business secrets are particularly problematic.

The employer can and should sanction his employee.

Company with an ideal aim

In principle, in his private life, the employee is free to form and express his political or religious opinions. When the employer dismisses him for such a reason, it is in most cases a wrongful termination.

This is not the case for companies with an ideal, spiritual, associative or political purpose. How do you deal with an employee in a migrant aid organization that openly campaigns against immigration? Or an employee in a church who claims on social networks to be an atheist?

Staff party

Staff party is often synonymous with a relaxed atmosphere and glasses of champagne. Employees can quickly get carried away and drink excessively. Insults or even heated unwanted declarations of love, the situation can get out of hand. The employer must take measures to prevent this kind of abuse. 

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1 Mar, 2010 byMarianne Favre Moreillon