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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.
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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.