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The Netherlands Court ruled in favor of a former Chetu employee, who the company fired for denying the extra surveillance, stating that the US-based software organization violated privacy. It further ordered the company to pay compensation of around 75,000 euros.
Chetu hired a Netherlands-based man to work remotely. After working for over a year and a half, he was asked to keep the webcam on during a virtual training period called the ‘corrective action program’. Feeling uneasy with the extended surveillance request, the employee refuted the same. “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 really uncomfortable,” he said.
Firing the employee
On August 26, Chetu fired the said employee for “refusal to work and insubordination” without further clarification. Following this, the employee, a remote worker based out of Diessen, North-Brabant, filed a case in the Zeeland-West Brabant court, Tilburg.
What the court said
The court declared that Chetu’s reasoning for insubordination was invalid and that there was no evidence of a refusal to work. The company also failed to provide reasonable instructions to justify dismissal. The Dutch public court document stated that asking to keep the camera on was contrary to the employee’s right to ‘respect for his private life.’ He was already having his computer screen monitored.
The fines levied on the company
The company was ordered to pay an 8% holiday allowance on the wage, the variable bonus, salary plus commission from August 26, 2022, to October 1, 2022, and court filing legal costs. In euros, the unpaid wage came up to 2,700, 8,375 for wrongful termination, 9,500 in worker transition assistance, 50,000 in additional compensation, and 585 for court filing costs incurred by the plaintiff. All this and the other settlements amounted to a total of 75,000 euros.
Founded by Atal Bansal, Chetu Inc. has its headquarters in Florida, US. As per reports, within a week after the plaintiff’s firing, the Rijswijk branch of Chetu was deregistered from the chamber of commerce and shut down on September 2.
The incident draws attention to the various privacy laws followed in different countries. And in many nations, the laws have not been clearly defined. For instance, India, which has significant outsourcing businesses with the U.S., does not have a policy on surveillance by employers.
“The legality of employers asking the employees to turn on the web camera for performance surveillance is not expressly prohibited in India. At the moment, in the absence of comprehensive privacy legislation in India, the bedrock of the legality of such practice hinges on the procurement of valid consent in terms of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011,” Hera Nafis, an advocate at the High Court, Calcutta, India told the Cyber Express Team.
She further explained how the growing employer snooping in India following the COVID-19 pandemic is a major concern. “There has been no landmark litigation on the same thus far, which could also be attributable to the fact that there is no comprehensive privacy legislation in India. However, many reports on employee snooping have emerged in India, including in the NSE case.”
Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack in the United States, several policies were re-examined for privacy issues. After the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of 14 private-sector companies, it was found that all the companies reviewed their employees’ communications, including but not limited to emails, sites visited, and other files.
Moreover, a study titled ‘Employee Privacy in 2022 and Beyond’ based on research conducted by Instant offices said that one in every five companies uses an employee monitoring tool. Instant Offices is the world’s largest digital marketplace for flexible workspace. It further read,
- 78% of companies report using employee monitoring software to track worker performance and online activity.
- 73% say stored recordings of calls, emails, and messages have affected team members’ performance reviews.
- Over 50% say they are implementing non-traditional monitoring techniques.