Florida-based company ordered to pay $73,000 after it fired a remote employee who refused to keep his webcam on all day
- A Dutch court ruled that a Florida-based company owes a remote employee $73,000 for wrongful termination.
- The employee was fired for refusing to turn his webcam on for an all-day virtual classroom, according to court documents.
A court ruled that a Florida-based company owes a remote worker $73,000 after the company fired him for refusing to keep his webcam on.
The employee worked remotely from the Netherlands for Chetu, a US software company. The company told him on August 23 that he'd need to keep his webcam on all day for a virtual training program, NL Times reported.
In response, the employee told Chetu he didn't "feel comfortable being monitored for 9 hours a day by a camera," as detailed in court documents filed in the Netherlands, where the case was heard. "This is an invasion of my privacy and makes me feel really uncomfortable," he told the company, according to the NL Times' translation of the Dutch court documents. "That's the reason why my camera isn't on."
The employee, who wasn't named in the suit, said the company could already monitor his activities on his laptop, and noted that he also was sharing his screen.
But another employee at Chetu said the requirement for employees to keep their webcams on was "no different" from how an employee would be seen by everyone all day in a physical office, according to the court papers.
Three days later, on August 26, the virtual employee was fired for "refusal to work" and "insubordination," according to the court documents.
The fired employee took Chetu to court in the Netherlands, where he was based, saying he wasn't given an "urgent reason" to "justify the immediate dismissal given," and that the company's demand that he keep his webcam on was a violation of his privacy rights.
In its ruling last week, the Dutch court sided with the employee, saying the firing was "not legally valid."
"The employer has not made it clear enough about the reasons for the dismissal," the court said. "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.
The court cited Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights that says "strict conditions are attached to observing employees." It further referred to a European Court of Human Rights' judgment in a 2017 case "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."
Chetu didn't immediately respond to an Insider request for comment made by email and phone.
If the Dutch employee were working in Florida or many other places in the US, TechCrunch pointed out, the employee likely would have fallen under so-called right-to-work laws, which state that employees work "at will" — and generally can quit or be fired at any time, for most any reason, likely including the refusal to keep a webcam running at all times.
But the Dutch court ruled that Chetu has to pay the former employee €50,000 (about $48,500) in fair compensation, €2,700 (about $2,600) in unpaid salary, €8,373.13 (about $8,126) for wrongful termination, and the unpaid holiday allowance, according to court documents. It's not clear if there is an appeal process for such a ruling.
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