Remote worker fired for refusing to keep his webcam on wins unfair dismissal case

midian182

Posts: 8,484   +104
Staff member
A hot potato: A US company headquartered in Florida must pay a Netherlands-based remote worker thousands of dollars after it fired him for refusing to keep his webcam activated all day. The Dutch court that ruled in the employee's favor has suggested this sort of surveillance violates human rights.

Chetu said the employee was required to attend a virtual classroom, which involved leaving their webcam turned on all day and having their screen remotely monitored. The unnamed person said being monitored for "9 hours per day" was an invasion of his privacy and made him feel uncomfortable, so he refused to turn the camera on.

Software development company Chetu promptly fired the employee over his "refusal to work" and "insubordination." He took the company to a Dutch court for unfair dismissal and won the case. "Tracking via camera for eight hours per day is disproportionate and not permitted in the Netherlands," the court said in its verdict.

Working in your underwear is becoming increasingly risky

The court also appeared to suggest the case was a human rights issue when it quoted from the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: "Video surveillance of an employee in the workplace, be it covert or not, must be considered as a considerable intrusion into the employee's private life."

TechCrunch notes that Chetu would probably have gotten away with any repercussions from the firing had the employee been based in Florida, an at-will state where employers can dismiss workers for any reason.

Chetu has been ordered to pay the employee $2,600 in unpaid salary, $9,245 in worker transition assistance, and $8,150 for wrongful contract termination. It must also pay a $50,000 fine and has been issued an order to remove the employee's non-compete clause.

Chetu never showed up for the case. It has since dissolved its Dutch branch and, as of September 1, 2022, deregistered from the country's trade register.

The pandemic saw most of the world shift to working from home. Today, companies such as Apple and Tesla have been trying to bring staff back into the office, and that's led to a lot of pushback. More firms are allowing staff to work remotely permanently, but the cost could be more invasive monitoring, at least in countries that allow it.

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seeprime

Posts: 699   +923
Just for the helluvit, I'd love to put up a green screen behind me and let my nosy bosses watch me work from a sunny beach or inside a casino. I'm self employed. So, I can't. But, it sure would be fun.
 

Plutoisaplanet

Posts: 892   +1,423
Who would actually want to work for a control freak that wants to monitor you constantly?
Many who work in a camera monitored environment, such as retail, a warehouse or factory. The purpose is often for "safety" but I'm sure many of those businesses use the feeds to ensure their workers aren't sitting idle. All Amazon delivery truck drivers also monitor them constantly: https://www.cnet.com/tech/tech-indu...n-use-of-cameras-to-monitor-delivery-drivers/

There are several other workplaces that monitor work environments constantly to prevent theft by customers, but the purpose is obviously not meant for monitoring workers.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 8,420   +7,867
Many who work in a camera monitored environment, such as retail, a warehouse or factory. The purpose is often for "safety" but I'm sure many of those businesses use the feeds to ensure their workers aren't sitting idle. All Amazon delivery truck drivers also monitor them constantly: https://www.cnet.com/tech/tech-indu...n-use-of-cameras-to-monitor-delivery-drivers/

There are several other workplaces that monitor work environments constantly to prevent theft by customers, but the purpose is obviously not meant for monitoring workers.
As I see it, there is one big difference in this case. I don't see an employee's home as an extension of an employer's workplace. While an employer has the full right to monitor the buildings/work area, etc., that the employer owns, insisting on monitoring an employee's home environment, just because the employee happens to be working from home, is, as I see it, a massive invasion of privacy. Employers do not own their workers; their workers are not slaves, and any policy that could be construed as such is an egregious over-reach on the part of an employer.

No worker should agree to "home monitoring" as a condition of employment for any reason, IMO. What's next?? Employer's wanting their employees to wear ankle bracelets?
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 3,366   +4,373
Well this is just typical. Workers in the USA have ZERO rights and the greedy companies are shocked when they discover that in TRULY civilized and TRULY free countries, worker's rights aren't just a punchline like they are in the USA.

All I can say for the Dutchman is "GOOD FOR HIM!" because the way that workers are treated in the USA is just disgusting.

Americans love to talk about "freedom" but with companies being allowed to pull crap like this, that "freedom" is no more than a valueless slogan because it has nothing substantial behind it.
 

mbk34

Posts: 424   +330
I'd love to put up a green screen behind me and let my nosy bosses watch me work from a sunny beach or inside a casino.
Weirdly, I do the exact opposite. I'm often working from so lovely locations around the world but use a generated background to make it look more "normal". The people I work for are quite decent but there's no point antagonising them. I was in the Alps last month and I'm off to the Greek islands in a couple of weeks! This was how remote working was sold to me and I'm sticking with it!
 

Thanthan

Posts: 109   +229
How stupid it is that the fine from the gov was more than the amount the worker is getting as a settlement...

This is normal practice in european countries. The reasoning is that people should not receive more money from a lawsuit than the actual losses incurred (eg. No, “I sue you for five million dollars in emotional damages for cussing me out”), but a suit might warrant stronger punishment of the offender than the losses incurred on the plaintiff, thus, additional fines may be decided on by the courts.

It’s known as a functioning legal system.
 

trgz

Posts: 424   +201
Well this is just typical. Workers in the USA have ZERO rights and the greedy companies are shocked when they discover that in TRULY civilized and TRULY free countries, worker's rights aren't just a punchline like they are in the USA.

All I can say for the Dutchman is "GOOD FOR HIM!" because the way that workers are treated in the USA is just disgusting.

Americans love to talk about "freedom" but with companies being allowed to pull crap like this, that "freedom" is no more than a valueless slogan because it has nothing substantial behind it.
In 2016, 52% of workers in the UK decided to vote in a manner that resulted in conditions that will allow their government (from 31 12 2023) to sanction, even promote, such (well I can't call it Draconian so I'll call it) Orwellian practices - score another one for progress I guess?
 

Soulburn74

Posts: 129   +69
Just for the helluvit, I'd love to put up a green screen behind me and let my nosy bosses watch me work from a sunny beach or inside a casino. I'm self employed. So, I can't. But, it sure would be fun.
At my company we often use OBS or other tools to have fun/fancy backgrounds for fun, and at least during the intial covid work from home orders, were pretty cool about it.