Remote worker fired for turning off webcam awarded $73,300

Wolfgang Zwanzger/

People use all sorts of things to cover their webcams while they work: tape, Post-Its, their thumbs up, whatever is within reach. A laid-off worker can now use $75,000 in cash. It might be difficult to balance it up there, though.

A court in the Netherlands recently ruled that an American company violated the rights of a Dutch remote worker by firing him for not leaving her webcam on. He was then sentenced to 75,000 euros (73,300 US$) for unfair dismissal. Sometimes it’s best for companies to drop these things.

Remote employee of Florida software company Chetu started working there in 2019, and last August he was ordered to participate in a totally fun virtual training session called “Corrective Action Program” .

He was then told that throughout the work day he should stay logged in (good), keep screen sharing on (still good but a bit weird), and also keep his webcam on all the time (ok that’s is a bit much).

The telemarketing employee didn’t leave a looping video of him staring ahead to fool his captors like Keanu Reeves made in the movie The rapidity.

In place, he has answered, “I don’t feel comfortable being watched 9 hours a day by a camera. It’s an invasion of my privacy and I feel really uncomfortable… You can already monitor all activity on my laptop and I’m sharing my screen.

A few days later, the worker was fired for “refusal to work” and “insubordination”. If you read the word insubordination in a Darth Vader voice, you’re not alone.

Being in the office ≠ Being on webcam

The worker challenged and sued the company in a Dutch court, to which Chetu responded at the time of filing by claiming that the webcam surveillance was no different than if the employee was actually present in the office. . Is it worth it.

Suffice it to say that the judge did not buy this argument and ruled in favor of the plaintiff. “The employer did not sufficiently specify the reasons for the dismissal. Furthermore, there was no evidence of a refusal to work, nor of a reasonable instruction,” status of court documents.

“The instruction to leave the camera on violates the employee’s right to privacy,” adding that it also violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Chetu didn’t show up for the hearing (it’s a long flight from Florida).

The company was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine, plus the worker’s late wages, court costs and unused vacation days. It must also remove the non-competition clause.

If this case had involved a remote employee in the United States, the verdict could have taken another direction since Florida is an “all you can eat” state. where workers can be fired for almost any reason, as long as it is not unlawful discrimination. The Netherlands and some other EU countries require a valid reason.

In any case, at least the Dutch worker did not have to follow this training.


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