Court orders Antall József Knowledge Center to pay fired employee HUF 7 million for wrongful termination

April 6, 2018

Court orders Antall József Knowledge Center to pay fired employee HUF 7 million for wrongful termination
Boglárka Szert at the I Would Teach movement’s demonstration in February, 2017 | Photo: 444.hu/Tamás Botos

The Antall József Knowledge Center, a state-funded and unabashedly pro-government think-tank-ish organization that lauds its primary mission as “talent management,” just lost a lawsuit for its unlawful termination of an employee.

This was a case about workplace censorship and retribution

Boglárka Szert, who worked at the Antall József Knowledge Center as an office manager, filed suit against her former employer because she considered her firing to be a form of retaliation. Szert claimed she was fired because she stood up for a fellow employee who was rebuked for liking a Facebook post.

According to Szert, her colleague was humiliated by their employer, Péter Antall, son of Hungary’s democratically elected prime minister József Antall. Péter Antall posted a threat on Facebook for the employees of the organization, saying that if any of them liked content supporting the referendum for Hungary to withdraw its bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games, they could go find work elsewhere.

Szert was later fired — a fact that her employer said was the result of organizational changes at the knowledge center which were made before the Facebook post fiasco. Now, a first-level court has sided with Szert, and has ordered the Antall József center to pay HUF 7 million (USD 28,00) in back wages and damages. Szert was represented in court by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.

“This ruling was an important signal to the public: If someone does something unlawful, it isn’t worth being passive about it because you can get your satisfaction in a clean trial,” the Hungarian Helsinki Committee wrote on Facebook.

Per index.hu’s summary of the ruling, the judge said the Antall József Knowledge Center itself proved – through a variety of media interviews – that Szert’s dismissal was the result of discrimination.

According to the judge, not only did Péter Antall’s threatening Facebook post restrict his organization’s employees from sharing their opinion, it restricted them from sharing a specific kind of opinion — which therefore aggravates the severity of the restriction. (In these types of cases, the burden of proof is reversed, Helsinki Committee co-chair András Kádár told Index.)

So what did Antall write on his Facebook page?

“Esteemed Colleagues! I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we are financed by the [Prime Minister’s Office]. I do not want to see colleagues posting or liking content that attacks the Olympics. I think it’s important! Everyone can have an opinion, but I ask you all to not share [your opinions] publicly because that can harm our organization. I have a message for those who want to stand out politically in another direction: you are not required to work here. I do not want to stand in the way of anyone’s career, I will sign anyone’s letter of resignation. We will not take part in the day-to-day debates of domestic politics!”