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The Labour Court has ruled that a bank could prohibit its employees from investing in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.
Pursuant to employment case law, employers have so-called 'managerial rights' over their employees. Among other things, this means that employers can issue guidelines relating to employee behaviour; however, there are limits on how intrusive these guidelines can be. In the present case, the question before the court was whether a major bank had gone too far by banning its employees from trading in bitcoin and other similar cryptocurrencies.
In Spring 2018 a bank banned its employees from trading in cryptocurrencies. The bank already had rules in place that prevented employees from speculating in foreign currencies. This ban was introduced to ensure that employees would not be in financial disarray, which would naturally be a problem for bank employees hired to look after the bank's and customers' money.
However, since it was a new ban, the bank decided that employees who had already purchased cryptocurrencies could keep them. Despite this exception, the employees and their trade union organisation, Finansforbundet, felt that the ban was too extensive. Therefore, the union brought an action in the Labour Court demanding that the ban be lifted and the bank pay a penalty.
During the case, the union stated, among other things, that there are narrow limits on the restrictions that an employer can impose relating to employees' purely private affairs. The union also emphasised that investing in cryptocurrencies is legal, so such activity should not affect the bank's image. Despite these arguments, the Labour Court disagreed that the bank had gone too far.
The Labour Court found that the bank's guidelines prohibited employees from speculating in foreign currency, among other things, to ensure that employees did not get into financial difficulty. The ban on investing in cryptocurrencies was just a supplement to these rules.
In addition, the Financial Supervisory Authority and the European Banking Authority had warned against trading in cryptocurrencies because there was a risk of large fluctuations in value and a risk that cryptocurrencies were being misused by criminals. As a result of these factors, among other things, the Labour Court concluded that the ban did not exceed the boundaries of normal managerial rights and found that the bank had acted properly.
This decision is an example of the way in which employers' managerial rights can, in certain situations, entail a right to establish rules for transactions or dealings that directly relate to employees' private life.