French Data Protection Act
Subscribe to French Data Protection Act's Posts

A Simplified Norm to Represent an Expanding Power: the Right to Listen in on Employees’ Phone Calls and the Standardization of French Privacy Law

Since 2001, the French Court of Cassation has made a continuous effort to refine and, in some circumstances, narrow the scope of the right to privacy in the workplace with a view to reaching a fair and balanced approach. The January 6, 2015 declaration of the French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) further highlights this trend towards the standardization of information collection at work, and serves to clarify and expand the right of employers to listen in on employees’ phone calls at work.

Background

In the landmark 2001 “Nikon Case,” the Court of Cassation ruled that “an employee has the right to the respect of his private life – including the right to the secrecy of correspondence – on the work premises and during working hours.” This announcement was qualified, however, and the court further refined that unless marked by the employee as “private,” the documents and files created by an employee on a company-computer for work purposes are presumed to be professional, which means that the company can access those documents and files without the employee’s presence. This can lead to an employer using such emails against an employee in the case of employment termination. Nonetheless, employers have an obligation under privacy and labor laws to inform employees about the collection and use of their personal data.

Building off of this decision, in October 2014, the French Social Supreme Court held that evidence gathered against an employee from data that had not previously been declared to and registered with CNIL was de facto illegal.

The French Labor Code and the French Data Protection Act both stipulate rules for the use of monitoring software by employers in the event that an employer wishes to establish such mechanisms. In particular, the employer must submit information to and engage in consultation with the works council, provide information to employees impacted by the software and make a formal declaration of the proposed monitoring activities to CNIL.

CNIL Declaration: Movement Toward a Simplified Norm

Continuing this trend, the declaration issued by the CNIL on January 6, 2015, further demonstrates not only how important the CNIL is, but also how the area of data protection is evolving and become more standardized in France.
This recent declaration established that employers wishing to record their employee’s telephone communications must first declare such information by filling out a simplified declaration form in lieu of a normal declaration form. After effectuating this simplified declaration, an employer will have the ability to listen to and record employee conversations for the purpose of employee training, evaluation and betterment of the quality of service.

While this declaration serves to grant employers permission to monitor employees, it also imposes upon them a number of restrictions: (i) the employee must be notified and informed of his or her right to refuse such recordings and (ii) the employee may only keep recordings for a period of six months. The information gathered from such recordings, however, may be kept for a [...]

Continue Reading




Are You Monitoring Your French Employees? Make Sure You Have Registered That Activity with the CNIL!

French employers must declare monitoring to the French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) in advance if they want to use evidence obtained from that monitoring in court.   The use of the employee’s company mailbox for personal purposes is tolerated under French law, when reasonable. Where it is considered abusive, however, it could constitute a breach of conduct against which the employer may impose sanctions.

Employers generally use monitoring software to discourage and establish evidence of abuse. Such software may be lawful provided the employer follows the rules stipulated by the French Labor Code and the French Data Protection Act to ensure the protection of personal data. In particular, the employer must submit information to and engage in consultation with the works council, provide information to employees impacted by the software, as well as make a formal declaration of the proposed monitoring activities to CNIL – except where a Data Protection Correspondent (Correspondant Informatique et Libertés) is appointed.

These requirements must be met before the implementation of the monitoring software. If these steps are not fulfilled, the software and monitoring activity remains illicit and the employer cannot rely on evidence obtained through that software to establish the employee’s misconduct.

The requirement to comply with the French data privacy law was reinforced by the French Social Supreme Court in a case where an employer’s software monitoring company mailbox flows had detected that an employee had dispatched or received 1,228 personal messages. But the employer’s declaration to the CNIL about the software had been filed after the beginning of the employee’s dismissal process.

The Social Supreme Court ruled that the employer could not use the data collected and, more generally, that any data collected by an automated personal data processing tool prior to its CNIL filing, constitutes an illicit means of evidence.

This decision marks the first time that the French Social Supreme Court has officially ruled that prior declaration to the CNIL is a necessary condition affecting the validity of evidence in this context.  This is a similar conclusion and rationale to the 2013 decision where the sale of client files was rendered null and void by the French Supreme Commercial Court for failure to comply with the CNIL registration obligations and demonstrates once again how data protection is becoming a key matter in all legal areas, including employment law.




STAY CONNECTED

TOPICS

ARCHIVES

2021 Chambers USA top ranked firm
LEgal 500 EMEA top tier firm 2021