Pro-Israel employee wins suit against Migration Board

A court has ruled that Sweden’s Migration Board broke employment protection laws when it demoted an employee who maintained a pro-Israeli blog.

In a ruling handed down on Tuesday, the district court in Mölndal in western Sweden ordered the Migration Board (Migrationsverket) to pay Lennart Eriksson 100,000 kronor ($12,300) in compensation and to cover any legal expenses he incurred in fighting his case.

“It feels really good that I was proven right on all points,” Eriksson told the Dagen newspaper.

The case stems from action taken by the Migration Board back in 2007 when Eriksson returned from a one year sabbatical to learn he’d been demoted.

Eriksson viewed the move as the equivalent of being dismissed and filed a lawsuit to have the decision reversed.

From the outset, he was suspicious of the grounds on which the Migration Board had justified the move, believing it had to do with a new supervisor’s disapproval of a pro-Israeli blog Eriksson maintains in his spare time.

“I’ve taken a stance for democracy on my blog, for Israel’s right to exist, and have been attacked because of it,” he said.

The Migration Board had originally claimed that the demotion was due to complaints about Eriksson’s supervisory abilities.

“But that critique hasn’t been substantiated in more than one particular case, and in that case I think that they more or less took back the criticism during the trial. So I don’t think there was much substance to it,” said Eriksson.

The case sparked more controversy when Migration Board lawyer Staffan Opitz criticized Eriksson during the trial for writing in his blog that Hamas-founder Ahmed Yassin was a terrorist, rather than a “Palestinian freedom fighter”, despite the fact that the Swedish government considered Hamas a terrorist organization.

“It’s quite remarkable, and that probably gets to the heart of matter. If the Migration Board has managers that believe that, I can understand that they don’t like me,” Eriksson said.

In its ruling, the court only addressed whether the Migration Board was right to reassign Eriksson, leaving aside the question of whether the move constituted a violation of his freedom of speech.

According to the court, the demotion was tantamount to having Eriksson fired without cause, and therefore violated Swedish employment law.

The Migration Board now plans to review the ruling to determine whether it will appeal the case to the Labour Court (Arbetsdomstolen).

In the meantime, Eriksson looks forward to getting back to his work at the agency and to continuing with his blog.

“What has happened isn’t really only about me, it’s a question of principle,” he told Dagen.

“I have no plans to change the scope of my blog.”