Video surveillance at the workplace does not inevitably give rise to claims for damages. That was the verdict of the Landesarbeitsgericht (LAG) Sachsen-Anhalt [Regional Labour Court of Saxony-Anhalt] (Az.: 6 Sa 301/14).
GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: The protection of privacy is also an important issue in the field of employment law. That is why, e.g. installing a CCTV system is generally prohibited. Having said that, a ruling of the LAG Sachsen-Anhalt from November 10, 2015 demonstrates that this does not automatically give rise to damages claims on the part of the employees.
The case concerned “acts of sabotage” affecting production at a spice manufacturer. Two clients had discovered small metal nails in the spice packaging. Based on the assumption that these foreign objects were entering the packaging during the production process, the company installed a video surveillance system in the relevant area for approx. two months without informing the employees of this. The latter were, however, aware that the nails had appeared to be deliberately ending up in the packaging.
One former employee who had been dismissed in the meantime took the view that the video surveillance represented a violation of his right to privacy and sued for damages. The LAG dismissed the claim.
The Court stated that the surveillance had only taken place over a relatively short period of time and was confined to the production area. The kind of monitoring of employees that would have justified the perception that their privacy was being violated, e.g. in the changing facilities or break rooms, had not occurred. Moreover, the video surveillance was not directed at the plaintiff but rather included the entire production area. The Court went on to say that it was also important to bear in mind that the incidents in question had made the employees aware of the matter and that surveillance had been carried out by the foreman as well. It held that the reason behind the surveillance was also significant, as the fact that there had been “acts of sabotage” was indisputable. The Court ruled that while this alone was not enough to justify the video surveillance, it was clear from an overall assessment of the facts and circumstances that there was a reasonable cause for the surveillance, with the company’s business relations with its clients at stake. The LAG therefore concluded that this encroachment on the right to privacy was not sufficiently serious such that it justified payment of damages.
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