According to the NL Times, a Florida-based company has been ordered to pay approximately €75,000 (roughly $73,000) in compensation and other fees after firing a remote worker from the Netherlands who refused to leave their webcam on all day. Chetu, the company, stated that the unnamed employee was required to attend a virtual classroom for the entire day, with their webcam turned on and their screen remotely monitored.
However, when the employee refused, claiming that leaving their webcam on for “9 hours a day” made them feel uncomfortable and violated their privacy, the company fired them, citing “refusal to work” and “insubordination.”
The court ruled in a decision issued last week that these were insufficient grounds for dismissing the employee. The court’s decision states, “There has been no evidence of a refusal to work” (via Google Translate). It went on to say that the “instruction to leave the camera on is contrary to the employee’s right to privacy” and that the dismissal was illegal.
The court specifically cites Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which states that citizens have the “right to respect for private and family life.” Chetu contended that requiring an employee to leave their webcam on is no different than allowing management to see them while they work in a traditional office. However, the court stated that “strict conditions are attached to observing employees,” and that in this case, asking an employee to leave their camera on was an unjustified intrusion.
According to reports, the court has ordered Chetu to pay a substantial sum in damages to its former employee. This includes compensation of €50,000 (approximately $48,000), approximately €2,700 (approximately $2,600) in unpaid salary, and more than €8,000 (approximately $7,750) for wrongful termination. The company must also compensate the employee for unused vacation days.
As reports point out, firing an employee for not turning on their webcam may be more acceptable in an “at-will” state like Florida, but employees under the jurisdiction of the ECHR appear to have a lot more protections.