A remote employee of a U.S. business who was fired for refusing to leave his webcam on while he was working was awarded roughly 75,000 euros by a Dutch court for wrongful termination. The resident of Diessen, Noord-Brabant, was hired by the Rijswijk branch of Chetu Inc., a software development company headquartered in Miramar, Florida, NL Times reported.
The employee began working for Chetu in January 2019, and said he was earning over 70,000 euros per year in salary, commission, variable bonus, and holiday allowance. He worked for the American firm for over a year and a half, but on 23 August, he was ordered to take part in a virtual training period called a “Corrective Action Program.” He was told that during the period he would have to remain logged in for the entire workday with screen-sharing turned on and his webcam activated.
The telemarketing worker replied back two days later, “I don’t feel comfortable being monitored for 9 hours a day by a camera. This is an invasion of my privacy and makes me feel really uncomfortable. That’s the reason why my camera isn’t on. You can already monitor all activities on my laptop and I am sharing my screen.” He was summarily fired on 26 August, for “refusal to work” and “insubordination”.
The fired worker brought the case to the Zealand-West Brabant court in Tilburg. The court agreed the termination was not legally valid. The court ordered Chetu Inc. to pay the man over 2,700 euros in unpaid salary, 8,375 euros for wrongful termination, 9,500 euros in worker transition assistance, and 50,000 euros in additional compensation. On top of that, the company has to pay the worker for 23 vacation days that were not taken, the 8 percent statutory holiday allowance, and possibly an additional penalty for failure to provide a payslip for August. Chetu also has to cover about 585 euros for court filing costs and the plaintiff’s legal fees.
TechCrunch reported that firing the worker might have worked in an at-will state such as Chetu’s home state Florida, but it turns out that labor laws work a little differently in other parts of the world. According to TechCrunch, Chetu was “apparently a no-show for the court case”.
Personally, I agree with the court’s decision. It seems entirely irrational to expect a worker to be on camera for 9 hours a day. Many remote workers are doing their jobs from their own homes, and it would be incredibly invasive to have to “stream” yourself for 9 hours straight to appease your bosses.
In addition, I’d like to see federal legislation passed that would make it illegal for companies to abuse their remote workers by forcing them to be on camera for an entire workday. It makes sense to be on camera with other coworkers for a short meeting. But, being on camera for an entire workday makes absolutely no sense.