Dutch employee fired by US firm for shutting off webcam awarded €75,000 in court

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A remote employee of a US company who was fired for refusing to leave his webcam on while working has been awarded around 75,000 euros by a Dutch court for unfair dismissal. The Diessen, Noord-Brabant resident was hired by the Rijswijk branch of Chetu Inc., a software development company headquartered in Miramar, Florida.

The employee started working for Chetu in January 2019 and said he earned more than 70,000 euros per year in salary, commission, variable bonus and vacation pay. He worked for the American firm for more than a year and a half, but on August 23 he was ordered to participate in a virtual training period called the “Corrective Action Program”. He was told that during this period he would have to stay connected all day at work with screen sharing enabled and his webcam enabled.

The telemarketing agent replied two days later: “I don’t feel comfortable being watched 9 hours a day by a camera. This is an invasion of my privacy and I feel really uncomfortable. that’s why my camera is not on. You can already monitor all activities on my laptop and I share my screen. “He was summarily dismissed on August 26, for “refusal to work” and “insubordination”.

The plaintiff brought the case at the Zeeland-West Brabant court in Tilburg a few weeks later, stating “there was no urgent reason given to justify the immediate dismissal given”. He alleged that the dismissal was disproportionate and that the request to leave his webcam on was unreasonable and breached data privacy rules.

The court agreed that the termination was not legally valid. “The employer did not sufficiently specify the reasons for the dismissal. Further, there was no evidence of a refusal to work or reasonable instruction. The instruction to leave the camera on violates the employee’s right to privacy,” the court said.

Chetu instead argued that the webcam was no different than if the worker had been present in the office observed by management. The sub-district court found it unlikely that Chetu intended to store the webcam footage and said data privacy was not the relevant issue.

Instead, he cited Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and a European court ruling that made it clear that “strict conditions are attached to employee shadowing.” The request to keep the camera on was an unreasonable intrusion on the plaintiff’s right to privacy, the court ruled.

The court ordered Chetu Inc. to pay the man more than 2,700 euros in unpaid wages, 8,375 euros for unfair dismissal, 9,500 euros in worker transition assistance and 50,000 euros in additional compensation. In addition to this, the company must pay the dismissed worker the 23 days of vacation not taken, the public holiday allowance of 8% and possibly an additional penalty for failure to provide a payslip for the month of August. Chetu must also cover approximately 585 euros for the plaintiff’s filing and legal costs. Chetu will also be liable for late payment interest charges.

In the judgment handed down at the end of September and published on Wednesday, the court also declared the non-competition and confidentiality clauses of the employment contract invalid. In civil cases in the Netherlands where the judgment is over €1,750, an appeal can be filed by either party within three months of the court’s decision.

Less than a week after the plaintiff’s dismissal, the Rijswijk branch of Chetu Inc. was struck off the Chamber of Commerce and closed on September 2, records show. The branch was first registered in the Netherlands on June 1, 2013 with a stated capital of €10 million. Atal Bansal has been appointed director of the Dutch subsidiary. He is the founder and CEO of the company in the United States, according to Forbes.

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