Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Employers In France May Inspect Employees’ Internet Connexions

Cour de Cassation (Social Chamber), 9 July 2008, Franck L. / Entreprise Martin,

In this case, a company dismissed an employee on the grounds of a serious fault, after inspecting his computer and discovering that the employee had abusively consulted Internet websites for his personal use. As the inspection took place in his absence, the employee brought the case before the labour Court (‘Conseil de Prud’hommes’), claiming that his employee had infringed on his private life.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the dismissal was justified on the grounds of a serious fault.

The employee appealed to the Cour de Cassation (the French Supreme Court) claiming that in application of Articles 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (on the right to respect for private and family life), 9 of the Civil Code (on privacy) and L.120-2 of the Labour Code (on privacy at work; now codified at Article L. 1121-1), an employee is entitled to respect for his private life at his workplace, which obliges the employee to respect the secrecy of his communications. Therefore, the appellant considered that the employee could not inspect his computer without violating this fundamental liberty.

The employee further argued that, in any event, an employer is only entitled to look for the consulted Internet sites in the presence of the employee.

The French Cour de Cassation rejected these arguments, ruling that an employee’s connexions to Internet sites during his working hours, using a computer put at his disposal for the performance of his work, are presumed to be of a professional nature. An employer may therefore inspect these connexions in order to identify them, out of the employee’s presence.