On 18 February 2019 the Pamplona Labour Court ruled in a case concerning an employee who had been dismissed on disciplinary grounds for his involvement in a violent altercation with a colleague after work hours. The fight had been captured on the CCTV installed in the workplace car park.
The key element of this case was the court's analysis of the evidence gathered from the CCTV system.
The Pamplona Labour Court considered numerous Constitutional Court rulings on the admissibility of evidence taken from video surveillance networks, including Judgment 39/2016, which imposed the following criteria for determining the validity of evidence obtained by such systems:
- The manner of capturing the video surveillance must meet the three pillars of proportionality (ie, it must be appropriate, necessary and proportional).
- The employer must fulfil its requirement to provide prior information concerning the installation of the surveillance system (although not its exact purpose) by installing informative signs which comply with the Spanish Data Protection Agency's guidelines.
The Pamplona Labour Court went on to analyse European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) case law on video surveillance in the workplace. According to ECHR case law, employers must fulfil their duty to provide information on the installation of such systems by specifically, accurately and unequivocally notifying employees of the existence of CCTV systems and the reason for their installation (in addition to other elements, including how employees can exercise their rights in this regard). By strictly imposing a duty on employers to provide information, the ECHR case law contrasts with that of the Spanish Constitutional Court, whose rulings should, in theory, align with those of the European Union.
In addition, the Pamplona Labour Court stated that the applicability of the Constitutional Court case law has been affected by the introduction of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR includes a duty to inform data subjects prior to the processing of data (which occurs on the installation of CCTV cameras), which includes providing information on the data controller and the purpose of the data processing, among other things.
The Pamplona Labour Court held that the ECHR case law and the GDPR both set out an obligation to inform data subjects and that neither foresee any exceptions with regard to employment relationships.
Finally, the Pamplona Labour Court considered the fact that under the Data Protection Act, employers are exempt from their duty to inform data subjects when capturing images as evidence of wrongdoing. However, the court went on to rule that under no circumstances can Spanish law prevail over the GDPR, ruling that the scope of the domestic legislature's work cannot restrict the protection-related fundamental rights provided for under the GDPR or the requirements to provide information in this regard.
The CCTV evidence in the case at hand would be admissible under the Data Protection Act (which exempts parties from their duty to inform data subjects when a crime has been committed). However, as the act does not align with ECHR case law and the GDPR, the Pamplona Labour Court refused to accept the CCTV recordings as evidence.
Despite the above, the court considered the dismissal to be fair based on testimonies provided by a witness to the altercation and the head of the employer's HR department which confirmed that the events were – in no uncertain terms – serious enough to justify the dismissal on disciplinary grounds imposed by the employer.
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