People use all sorts of things to cover their webcams while they work: duct tape, Post-It Notes, their crooked thumb, whatever comes to hand. A laid-off worker can now use $75,000 in cash. However, it can be difficult to balance it there.
A court in the Netherlands recently ruled that a US company violated the rights of a Dutch remote worker by firing him for not leaving his webcam on. He subsequently received €75,000 (US$73,300) for unfair dismissal. Sometimes it’s better for companies to let these things slide.
Remote employee of Florida software firm Chetu started working there in 2019, and last August he was ordered to participate in a totally fun-sounding virtual training session called “Corrective Action Program.”
He was then instructed that throughout the workday, he would have to stay logged in (okay), continue to share his screen (still ok, but a little weird), and also leave his webcam on all the time (okay, that’s a bit too much). ). ).
The telemarketer didn’t leave a looping video of him looking straight ahead to fool his captors like Keanu Reeves did in the movie. Speed.
Instead, he replied, “I don’t feel comfortable being monitored for 9 hours a day by a camera. This is an invasion of my privacy and makes me feel very uncomfortable… You can now monitor all activities on my laptop and I am sharing my screen.”
Days later, the worker was fired for “refusal to work” and “insubordination.” If you read the word insubordination with the voice of Darth Vader, you are not alone.
Being in the office ≠ Being on webcam
The worker objected and filed a lawsuit against the company in a Dutch court, to which Chetu responded at the time of the filing by claiming that the webcam monitoring was no different than if the employee was actually present in the office. It’s worth a try.
Suffice it to say that the judge did not believe this argument and ruled in favor of the plaintiff. “The employer has not made sufficiently clear the reasons for the dismissal. Furthermore, there has been no evidence of a refusal to work, nor was there a reasonable instruction,” the court documents state.
“The instruction to leave the camera on is contrary to the employee’s right to respect for his private life,” adding that it also violates 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, along with the worker’s back wages, court costs and unused vacation days. You should also remove the non-compete clause.
Had this case involved a remote employee in the US, the verdict might have gone differently as Florida is an “at-will” state where workers can be fired for almost any reason, as long as it is not discrimination. illegal. The Netherlands and some other EU countries require a valid reason.
In any case, at least the Dutch worker did not have to do that training.