The decision in the recent case of López Ribalda and others v Spain highlights the conflicting position of data protection laws which protect fundamental rights and the rights of an employer to monitor their employees and customers.
The use of surveillance cameras is common in many work places. Usually they are used for security purposes and to protect the staff and customers within the premises. However a consequence of the use of video surveillance is that employers can catch employees committing acts of misconduct that can lead to disciplinary action.
In this particular case a number of cameras had been placed around a supermarket to catch shoplifters. The employees had only been told about the presence of visible cameras and not cameras that had been placed covertly. A number of employees were dismissed in reliance on footage that was captured by the covert surveillance. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that this was a breach of Article 8 (right to privacy) and that video surveillance is a significant intrusion into private life.
Employers must ensure that employees are aware of the use of video surveillance and care must be taken when seeking to rely on video surveillance in a disciplinary process. For further information on this case and on privacy in the workplace, please contact a member of the Employment team.
We also have a seminar in February looking at all the intricacies of investigations during a disciplinary process. We will be looking at privacy within that session. This particular outcome may feel counter intuitive to employers and we will always look at risk in each situation when advising you. What does seem clear is that employers should identify all monitoring that takes place.