France: Court rejects workplace snooping complaint from ex-railway company employee

Human rights judges have ruled that an employer may consult files on  a work  computer unless  the  employee  in  question  has  clearly  identified  them as  “private.”

The European Court of Human rights decision followed a complaint against France from a railway company official Eric Libert. He was sacked after his employer found pornography and other forged certificates on his work computer.

In today’s judgement in the case of Libert v. France (application no. 588/13) the court held unanimously that there had been

No violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court noted that the consultation of the files by Libert’s employer had pursued a legitimate aim of protecting the rights of employers, who might legitimately wish to ensure that their employees were using the computer facilities which they had placed at their disposal in line with their contractual obligations and the applicable regulations.

The court observed that French law comprised a privacy protection mechanism allowing employers to open professional files, although they could not surreptiously open files identified as being personal.

They could only open the latter type of files in the employee’s presence. The domestic courts had ruled that the said mechanism would not have prevented the employer from opening the files at issue since they had not been duly identified as being private.

Lastly, the court considered that the domestic courts had properly assessed the applicants allegation of a violation of his right to respect for his private life and that those courts’ decisions had been based on relevant and sufficient grounds.

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