Tech firm fined for firing worker who refused to open webcam

Demanding employee to turn on webcam is a human rights violation, court rules

Tech firm fined for firing worker who refused to open webcam

Requiring that workers turn on their webcams while they work remotely is just wrong. In fact, it’s a human rights violation, a Dutch court said in a recent ruling.

Florida-based software development company Chetu has been fined $50,000 after one of its workers sued the company, claiming he was fired for refusing to open his webcam. The company demanded the employee turn on his webcam, but the worker refused; the employee wasn’t happy with being monitored.

“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 really uncomfortable. That is the reason why my camera is not on,” said the employee in the court document, according to TechCrunch. 

The worker also claimed that his employer “can already monitor all activities” on his laptop and that he is sharing his screen.

Read more: Should you make staff turn their cameras on?

After his refusal, the company fired him for “refusal to work” and “insubordination.”

However, the court disagreed, saying that “instructions to keep the webcam turned on is in conflict with the respect for the privacy of the workers. Tracking via camera for 8 hours per day is disproportionate and not permitted in the Netherlands,” the court said.

The Netherlands’ Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms also says that “(…) 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,” hence the court ruled.

Chetu must pay for the employee’s court costs and back wages. The company also needs to pay the employee’s wages, unused vacation days and a number of other costs, as well. It must also remove the employee’s non-compete clause. 

So, how can employers monitor their workers without snooping? Rosette Cataldo, vice president of performance and talent strategy from Workhuman, said that looking at their progress in terms of creating goals and feedback moments through the tools they provide is one way.

"There is a need to find and see productivity received through our tool by looking at interactions through connections or data that gives you beautiful insights on how people are connecting with each other in a way," she told HRD.

Also, here are some ways employers can evaluate remote workers, according to Randstad USA:

  1. Develop performance reviews specifically for remote work.
  2. Create clear remote performance indicators.
  3. Assess work-from-home well-being.

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