Is this the perfect excuse not to activate your webcam for work calls?

A Dutch court hearing has ruled that camera surveillance all day long is “disproportionate” and not allowed.

Is this the perfect excuse not to activate your webcam for work calls?

A Netherlands-based employee of Chetu, a Florida company, has won a court case against their employer for unfair dismissal on the subject of remote work webcam surveillance.

The worker was asked to enable screen sharing and webcam access for an entire working day while attending a training program, but after refusing to do so, faced the sack. This may have been above board in Florida where workers or companies are not required to give any notice or reason for terminating a contract, however employment rules around the globe offer different levels of protection.

According to the publicly available court documents issued by the Court of Zeeland West-Brabant, the worker explained to the company:

“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's the reason why my camera isn't on. You can already monitor all activities on my laptop and I am sharing my screen.”

Monitoring staff via webcam

The following day, Chetu notified the worker of their contract’s termination by email, on the grounds of refusal to work and insubordination.

Ultimately, the court ruled in the worker’s favor, insisting that Chetu pay the claimant $2,600 in unpaid salary, $9,245 in worker transition assistance, and a further $8,150 on the basis of wrongful contract termination. The fines extended to the equivalent of 23 days’ holiday pay, an 8% holiday allowance, and any court and late payment fees incurred, bringing the total to nearly $50,000.

The court summarized that “camera surveillance during nine hours a day is disproportionate and not allowed in the Netherlands. In addition, he was already checked for output via software installed on his laptop.” It continues: “There was no question of refusal to work.”

The court notes also highlight the company’s lack of statement or defence against this case, alongside the fact that Chetu did not appear at the hearing.

Chetu has since dissolved its Dutch branch, and has deregistered from the country’s trade register as of September 1, 2022.

TechRadar Pro has asked the company for a response to the ruling.