A Dutch court may be on your side if you’ve ever thought that being told to turn on your camera during a Zoom conference was a serious violation of your workplace boundaries.
Chetu, a company with headquarters in Florida, required a telemarketer it recruited in the Netherlands to turn on his camera all through his workday. The worker didn’t like that he was being watched for nine hours a day by a programme that also streamed his webcam and shared his screen. Public court documents (in Dutch) claimed that as a result of his refusal, the company sacked him for “insubordination” and “refusal to work.” Chetu had failed to show up for the court’s hearing.
The terminated employee filed a lawsuit against Chetu in the Netherlands, where he had his base of operations, alleging that the company had violated his privacy rights by requiring him to have his webcam on and that he hadn’t been given an urgent reason to justify the immediate dismissal given. The Dutch court ruled that the Florida-based company owed the remote worker $73,000 in fines after the company wrongfully terminated him for trying to enforce his workplace boundaries.
“The employer has not made it clear enough about the reasons for the dismissal,” the court said in the documents. “Moreover, there has been no evidence of a refusal to work, nor has there been any reasonable instruction.”
Making an employee leave their camera on is against the employee’s right to respect for private life, the court added. This ruling fits perfectly into the debates surrounding the right to privacy and workplace surveillance in the times of online work. Despite arguments in favor of surveillance stating that it could be likened to being in a public workplace, there is a considerable boundary crossed when work is done in the private sphere of the home. This ruling could prove beneficial in helping employees fight for their right to maintaining that boundary.