You may recall our recent article on a case involving a Romanian worker called Bogdan Barbulescu. He successfully claimed that his human rights had been breached when his employers monitored his used of their Yahoo Messenger account and dismissed him as a consequence. As a follow up to this, it’s worth looking at the Spanish case of Lopez Ribalda & Ors v Spain, in which workers raised similar concerns about covert surveillance within the workplace.
The workers who brought this claim worked for a supermarket, which had installed CCTV cameras in an attempt to clamp down on suspected thefts. Staff were made aware of the location of some of the cameras installed, but not all. After some workers were dismissed on the basis of evidence gathered by the hidden cameras, they claimed that the supermarket had broken their human right to privacy and related data protection laws.
After a Spanish court upheld the supermarket’s actions, the workers successfully took their case to the European Court of Human Rights. In the ECHR’s opinion, the supermarket’s actions were too intrusive and failed to strike a fair balance between its own rights and those of its workers. Furthermore, the supermarket failed to "explicitly, precisely and unambiguously" inform its workers of the existence of the CCTV recording equipment, as well as why and how it was to be used.
This case underlines the existing restrictions placed on employers in relation to the monitoring of their staff. Additionally, it’s worth remembering that all issues relating to the processing of personal data will need to be reviewed in the light of the imminent implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation in May 2018.
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