Many employers whose employees work in a home office fear a loss of control over the work to be done. It is not uncommon for them to demand that the webcam be permanently switched on for monitoring purposes. A Dutchman has now taken legal action against this.

Plaintiff should turn on webcam and share screen

The plaintiff was an employee of a US company. The employee was domiciled in the Netherlands and was employed remotely as a sales representative. For this work in the home office, the employer established strict rules in August 2022. First, the employee was instructed to be logged in for the entire workday. In addition, the employer demanded that the employee not only share his screen during this time, but also leave his webcam permanently on.

The employee did not feel comfortable with this. He did not want to be "monitored by a camera for 9 hours a day", as he felt that this would violate his privacy. His work performance was already comprehensible through the split screen.

Employer sees it as refusal to work

The employer saw this refusal to switch on his webcam as a "refusal to work". The following day, he terminated the employment relationship.

The employer considered the employee's conduct to be a violation of the employee's right to issue instructions.

The employee, in turn, still considered himself to be in the right and took the matter to court.

The verdict: Surveillance via webcam inadmissible

The competent Dutch labor court considered the employee's dismissal for "refusal to work" to be invalid. There was "no evidence of refusal to work" in the behavior.

In addition, the instruction to leave the webcam permanently on violated the employee's privacy. In doing so, the Dutch court refers to a Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights of 2017, which describes both covert and overt video surveillance of an employee at the workplace as a "significant interference with private life". It also points out that the term "private life" cannot be defined conclusively and must be understood in a broad sense. The term "private life" could also include professional activities or activities that take place in a public context.

Based on the above, video surveillance throughout the workday violates privacy.

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