Dutch court rules that being forced to keep a webcam on while working is illegal

A US company was fined $50,000 and ordered to pay the employee's wages and vacation days.

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A court in the Netherlands has ruled that a US company violated a Dutch worker's human rights by forcing him to keep his webcam on during work hours, TechCrunch has reported. Hired by Florida telemarketing firm Chetu, the employee was terminated for refusing to be monitored "for nine hours per day" by a program that streamed his webcam and shared his screens.

The company said it fired the worker for "refusal to work" and "insubordination." However, the employee stated that he "didn't feel comfortable" being monitored all day. "This is an invasion of my privacy and makes me feel really uncomfortable. That is the reason why my camera is not on," he's quoted as saying in the court documents. (Chetu failed to show up for the court hearing.)

"Tracking via camera for eight hours per day is disproportionate and not permitted in the Netherlands," the verdict states, adding that it also violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court found that Chetu dismissed the employee unfairly and must pay a $50,000 fine, along with the worker's back wages, court costs, and unused vacation days. It was also required to remove a non-compete clause.

As Florida is an at-will state, employees can be fired for any reason as long as it's not illegal. In the Netherlands and other EU countries, however, you must have a valid motive for firing someone (refusal to perform work, culpable conduct, etc.) — otherwise, the employee has grounds to dispute it.