In a judgment dated 30 November 2021,(1) the High Court had to determine whether a company's policy of forcing shop employees to show the contents of their belongings to their manager in an area monitored by video surveillance respected their right to dignity and privacy.

Although the Workers' Commission had previously expressed its disapproval with this measure, the company continued implementing the practice.

The Workers' Commission subsequently brought forward a claim in a collective dispute, requesting that the measure be declared null and void, as they believed that it represented an unjustified intrusion of the employees' privacy, which violated a fundamental right.

The Court began by explaining the limits imposed on the employer's management and control powers during the course of the employment relationship, stating that there must be a balance between the employees' obligations and the employer's control. In this regard, the Court recalled that article 20.3 of the Workers' Statute subjects the employer's control and supervisory role to its duty to respect the dignity of the workers, which leads to the employer's obligation to ensure that any control measure must respect the employees' right to honour, privacy, self-image, secrecy of communications and the protection of personal data.

Further, the Court pointed out that searches may only be carried out in discrete places that are not accessible to all employees, when necessary and in order to protect the company's assets, provided that the reasoning is suitable, necessary and balanced.

The company claimed that the purpose of these preventive searches was to protect the company's assets, given that the company and the industry had suffered heavy losses for unestablished reasons.

However, the Court concluded in its ruling that this measure did not comply with the suitability, necessity and proportionality criteria, as there was no proven cause that could justify searching the employees' belongings and there was no prior suspicion of misconduct that could justify such a course of action. Therefore, the Court found that these are "preventive and not counteractive control measures".

Finally, the Court detailed that the employer's decision went "far beyond the company's powers and led to an unlawful interference with the right to privacy".

On this basis, the Court upheld the Workers' Commission's claim and declared the practice null and void.

For further information on this topic please contact César Navarro or María José Ramos at CMS Albiñana & Suarez de Lezo by telephone (+34 91 451 9300) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The CMS Albiñana & Suarez de Lezo website can be accessed at


(1) ECLI: ES:AN: 2021:4743.