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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...

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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...

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