The American software company Chetu has to pay compensation to a Dutch employee who was fired because he refused to work from home with a permanently switched on webcam. The Zeeland-West-Brabant District Court recently determined this. In total, the company has to pay around 75,000 euros because of an unlawful termination.
According to the court document, the man has been working in sales for the Dutch branch Chetus since 2019 – and exclusively from his home office. On August 23 of this year, the company informed him that in the future he would be required to participate in a “Corrective Action Program (“CAP”) – Virtual Classroom”. That requires him to stay logged in all day, sharing his screen and using a webcam.
However, the man refused the webcam and responded to repeated requests from his employer: “I don’t feel comfortable being watched by a camera 9 hours a day. It’s an invasion of my privacy and I feel very uncomfortable. You can already monitor all activities on my laptop and I’m sharing my screen.” On August 26, he then received a termination email. Contents: “Your employment is hereby terminated. Reason: Refusal of work; Disobedience”.
violation of fundamental rights
The court considered the termination without notice to be ineffective because the very short email did not sufficiently clarify the reason for the termination. There was also no evidence of an actual refusal to work on the part of the dismissed person.
The court also attacked the company’s surveillance practices. Chetu argued to the man that the webcam was no different than if he could be seen by everyone while he was working in the office. Even assuming that the recordings are not saved and there are no data protection issues, the court ruled that video surveillance was still a serious invasion of privacy without justification. There can be no refusal by the employee to comply with a reasonable order or direction.
The judges referred to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. In November 2017, he found that the video surveillance of an employee at work constituted a significant invasion of privacy and thus of fundamental and human rights. Such supervision requires special identification.