On September 30, 2020, the French Court of Cassation (“Court”) ruled in favor of an employer that dismissed an employee because of the contents of a Facebook post (the decision is available here, in French). In particular, the employee in this case posted a photograph of a new clothing collection of the employer on
On 10 January 2018, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that the Republic of Azerbaijan violated Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) by failing to adequately investigate claims by an Azerbaijani journalist that she had been the victim of political blackmail. The ECtHR’s ruling follows upon reports of rising concern in the Council of Europe about government mistreatment of journalists across Europe, and in Azerbaijan in particular.
Continue Reading European Court of Human Rights Finds Violation of Journalist’s Privacy
On September 5, 2017, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) issued its ruling on appeal in the case of Bărbulescu v. Romania, concerning alleged unlawful workplace monitoring of Mr. Barbulescu’s private communications.
Overturning the ECtHR’s prior ruling in the case (covered by Inside Privacy here), the Grand Chamber held that Romanian courts had not adequately and fairly weighed up the competing interests of Mr Barbulescu and his employer. That defect of justice meant that Romania had failed to proactively protect Mr Barbulescu’s right to privacy, as required by its membership of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Grand Chamber held that Mr Barbulescu’s right to privacy extended to his workplace, despite his private use of a work computer constituting a breach of his rules of employment. The Grand Chamber held that while privacy in the workplace can be restricted “as necessary,” “an employer’s instructions cannot reduce private social life in the workplace to zero,” since the right to privacy does not necessarily depend on an individual’s reasonable expectations, and can be enjoyed in public and in the workplace, notwithstanding prohibitions and warnings given to the individual. A fulsome balancing exercise was therefore required in cases such as these.
The Grand Chamber underlined that provided national courts undertake an adequate balancing exercise, they have some discretion as to the actual result (i.e. whether the employer’s or employee’s rights prevail in a given case). Similar discretion is also enjoyed by national legislators and constitutions when setting underlying rules on workplace privacy, provided such rules – and a means to enforce them – are actually in place.
Nevertheless, the ruling states that workplace monitoring must always be limited to what is necessary for a legitimate purpose, and should be accompanied by a range of safeguards, normally including prior notice to employees – particularly when the content of communications is concerned.
Continue Reading New Ruling in European Employee Monitoring Case
On January 12, 2016, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that an employer who had monitored an employee’s private communications during working hours had not breached the employee’s right to privacy (under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights).
This judgment will influence how other European national courts and regulators view similar cases involving employer monitoring of employee private communications. However, the full scope of the judgement remains somewhat unclear; in particular, it remains unclear whether the ECtHR would apply similar logic if the monitored communications had been carried out through a personal account, rather than a professional one. Employers should also take note that the judgment emphasizes the need for employer monitoring policies to be reasonable and proportionate. The judgment is available in full here.
Continue Reading European Court of Human Rights Rules That Employers Can Monitor Employee Private Communications
By Dan Cooper and Colin Warriner
On 10 October 2013, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that finding the owners of an online news portal liable for offensive comments posted by its users did not violate their right to freedom of expression. Reactions to the ruling (which may still be appealed to the Grand Chamber of the Court) have largely focused on the fact that the ECHR cited the anonymity of the commentators as a factor in its decision; many headlines have sounded the death knell for online anonymity. However, the impact of the decision might not be so drastic.
Delfi AS owns one of Estonia’s largest news websites. In January 2006, it published an article about changes to a ferry company’s route that attracted many offensive and threatening comments about the ferry owner from users of the site. The ferry owner successfully sued Delfi for defamation, and the Estonian court awarded it 5,000 kroons (€320). The Estonian Supreme Court dismissed Delfi’s appeal in 2009, so Delfi went to the ECHR to complain that being held liable for its readers’ comments violated its freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.…