Remote Worker Fired For Switching Off Webcam

John Lister's picture

A court says an employee who refused to keep a webcam switched on was wrongly fired. He was awarded around $72,000 USD in compensation.

The man, whose name was not revealed in the case, worked remotely in the Netherlands for a Florida-based IT company called Chetu.

After working in the role for almost three years, he was told to take part in a "Corrective Action Program - Virtual Classroom." This involved keeping a webcam switched on throughout his nine-hour working day. (Source:

The employee refused to do so, arguing that he was already sharing his screen with management and thus they could already adequately monitor his work. He argued that keeping the camera on was an invasion of his privacy.

Work From Home

Chetu said the camera was acceptable because it simply replicated the way supervisors in an office can physically see their employers working at all times. They fired him on the grounds of "refusal to work" and "insubordination."

The employee took the case to a court in the Netherlands and successfully argued that the dismissal was invalid because Chetu did not have the right to insist he keep the camera on as doing so violated his privacy rights.

The court ruled that data privacy was not an issue as there was no evidence Chetu planned to store the webcam footage. However, it said the order breached the worker's personal privacy rights.

Private Life At Stake

It cited a previous ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that said "video surveillance of an employee in the workplace, be it covert or not, must be considered as a considerable intrusion into the employee's private life."

The court ordered a series of payments covering unpaid salary, compensation, unused vacation allowance and legal fees. By coincidence, the total amount was almost exactly one year's salary for the worker.

Chetu now has three months to appeal in the Netherlands. However, local media reports it has now shut down its branch in the company. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Was the company right to make the demand? Should remote workers have a greater expectation of privacy than those working in an office? Should businesses use tech to monitor employee working or simply judge them on their output?

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.6 (10 votes)


matt_2058's picture

Sure, the company has the right to monitor the employee if working from home. Why wouldn't that be ok?

Everytime I've had a frustrating experience, it's been with a person working from home. The manager who's 'working from home today', but not available and returns calls for urgent matters AFTER the end of the day or the next day. The person at the bank who works from home taking 3 weeks to call back. The insurance agent who never answers. The same office that has not been staffed for 2 years and has a perpetual sign on the door "working from home today". The employee so busy working from home that he's doing it in the hardware store. Or an acquaintance that is supposed to be working from home but is on the phone most of the day with a few neighborhood ladies, only hanging up when her boss calls. Or the neighbor who works from home for a logistics company who says he gets all his work done in about 3 hours and only has to answer the phone once or twice throughout the rest of his workday, otherwise screwing around in the yard or garage. The other neighbor who is supposed to be working during normal hours and does everything else (home-schooling, shopping, yardwork, etc and constantly says "I'll get my work done tonight after the kids go to bed".

Yep, businesses should be able to verify they are getting the work and attention the job deserves. Time clocks and time sheets are legal, so why not verification that an employee is present and active while on the clock?

Rant over.

Unrecognised's picture

I'm delighted the case has been found in favour of the plaintiff.

"video surveillance of an employee in the workplace, be it covert or not, must be considered as a considerable intrusion into the employee's private life."


Stay TF out of our homes.

Here, long ago now, an evil prime minister abolished minimum wages and hours and brought about an economy and culture that never sleeps. Employees now experience pressure they cannot refuse, to be available 24/7 and sacrifice their personal time whenever called upon to do so.

If employers expect employees to be completely flexible with their time, they should neither be surprised nor shocked when employees also deploy the notion and practice of flexible time to cope with the demands of family life and sustain their mental health.

Any remote worker whose productivity declines can be sacked. That's the litmus test, not whether someone is willing to sit for 9 hours with a camera trained on their face. Disgusting.