Asking employee to turn on webcam at home invites fine

The American software company had to pay the Dutch employee $72,200 for firing him because he kept the webcam off while working from home


A Dutch court ordered an American software company to pay compensation to an employee from Netherlands who was fired just because he did not agree to turn on his webcam while working from home. The Company terminated his employment accusing him of insubordination.

The employee apparently did not turn on the webcam because he did not want to be watched while working. His employer, on the other hand, a Florida-based telemarketing company, used a programme that necessitated screen sharing and streaming of his webcam for nine hours, that is, all of his working hours. The employee naturally felt awkward being watched all the time, even during a virtual training programme, and felt his privacy was being invaded by the company.

The Netherlands court termed this a violation of human rights and slapped a fine on the American company. The court drew attention to the fact that keeping a watch on employees in the workplace, secretly or otherwise, is as good as intruding into their private space, which is also stated by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The employer had to pay the said employee a settlement amount of $72,700, as reported by Fortune and The Verge.

Globally, employers are using surveillance mechanisms to keep track of their employees so that their productivity does not fall while working from home. A couple of years ago, an app was developed by a professor of Dartmouth College, in the US, which reportedly works by using the sensors in the employees’ smartphones. This invasive system is capable of literally spying on the employees.

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