In a recent case with implications for employers around the world, the Dutch Court has ruled that requiring employees to keep their webcams on during working hours is a violation of human rights. This post reviews the details of the case and explores what companies need to know going forward.

Employee Monitoring To The Extreme

A Florida-based software development company, Chetu, hired a telemarketer based in the Netherlands. Earlier this year, the company asked him to activate his webcam for nine hours a day. The employee refused and was fired for “refusal to work” and “insubordination".

In response, the employee took Chetu to court in the Netherlands, where a Dutch judge ultimately ruled in his favor and ordered the company to pay him around 75,000 euro ($73,000) including court costs, back wages, and a fine. The court also ruled that the employer must pay the employee's wages, unused vacation days, and a variety of other additional costs.

"I don’t feel comfortable being monitored for nine hours a day by a camera. This is an invasion of my privacy and makes me feel really uncomfortable. That is the reason why my camera is not on… You can already monitor all activities on my laptop and I am sharing my screen." - Anonymous employee’s communication to Chetu

Chetu was found guilty of violating the employee’s privacy and personal integrity by making him always appear on camera during work hours without any boundaries or limitations, effectively putting him under surveillance for an extended period.

Dutch Court Ruling Implications

The court's ruling means that companies, especially those with employees located in the Netherlands where Dutch parliament approved legislation to establish work-from-home as a legal right, will have to pay more attention to where and how they track employee performance and productivity.

Nonetheless, as organizations increasingly adopt remote or hybrid work models, managers are more frequently turning to productivity monitoring tools to keep track of their teams. When employees are not consistently in the office, it is understandable to be concerned about productivity, but businesses must carefully consider whether and how to track output.

If businesses choose to implement trackers, transparency is essential. The most crucial aspect of a successful rollout is a well-defined change management strategy that includes up-front communications about the data being collected and how it is being used.

Here are a few do's and don'ts that will help employers make sure that employees know they're being monitored without making them feel like they are being watched all the time.

  • DO: Build trust by being open about company reasons for monitoring employee behavior. Tell employees why the company is doing it, how long they plan to keep the information, and what will happen if they do not comply with expectations.
  • DON’T: Go overboard when it comes to implementing these kinds of systems—they are meant for helping employees do better work, not punishing them for mistakes made in the past (or even present!).
  • DO: Make sure everyone understands what is expected of them before starting any kind of monitoring program. You should also provide training on how to use the system effectively so there are not any misunderstandings later down the line when someone gets fired or demoted because they did not know their job duties well enough!
  • DON'T: Use employee performance monitoring for anything other than tracking your employees' work and productivity.
  • DO: Give your employees regular feedback about how their work is going, especially if there are problems or issues with their performance. This gives them an opportunity to correct mistakes before they become bigger problems later down the road (and it also helps prevent legal issues).
  • DON'T: Don't rely exclusively on employee performance monitoring systems when making decisions about who stays on staff and who gets let go; always have human oversight involved in these types of decisions as well.

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