In August 2012 the Czech Supreme Court issued an important judgment relating to privacy protection and the statutory ban on using an employer's work equipment for an employee's private purposes.
In the case before the court an employer dismissed an employee without notice for gross misconduct. It was said that, over the course of September 2009, the employee wasted over 102 hours surfing the internet during work hours.
The employee brought a court action asking for the summary dismissal to be declared void. He argued that the employer had acted unlawfully by secretly monitoring his internet use and that, therefore, the evidence of his internet activity, in the form of a list of websites he had visited, should not be considered by the court. Without that evidence it would not be possible to justify the summary dismissal.
The lower courts rejected the claim, preferring the employer's case that the dismissal was valid on the grounds that the employee had breached the statutory ban on using the employer's work equipment for his private purposes and had used work time for non-work activities. He had also breached the employer's internal rules against visiting websites with sensitive content and online news sites and watching TV or listening to the radio online. In light of the particularly high number of hours spent on non-work activities (almost 13 days out of 21 working days), the breach was considered to be gross misconduct.
On the privacy point, the employer denied that there had been any unlawful covert surveillance of the employee, as only his internet use was monitored; his emails, SMS and MMS had not been monitored or processed. The lower courts accepted this was the case.
On appeal, the Supreme Court confirmed that the summary dismissal was valid. The Supreme Court held that the employer's motive in carrying out checks on internet use was solely to protect its property. This was evident from the fact that the contents of the employee's e-mail, SMS and MMS were not investigated; only the employee's compliance with the statutory ban (as set out in the employer's internal rules) was monitored. According to the Supreme Court, checking records of websites employees have visited during working hours does not infringe their privacy rights. Accordingly the detailed list of the employee's internet activities could be used as evidence in court.