In a recently published judgment of 17 November 2011, the Labour Court of Leuven found that an employee’s right to privacy is not violated if his employer obtains information which was circulated by the employee on his public Facebook profile.

In this case, an employee of a company which is quoted on the Belgian stock exchange consistently published comments on his Facebook profile on the financial difficulties of the company, the collective redundancy measures the company was forced to undertake, its annual results and its market position. These comments had been shared on a publicly available part of the employee’s profile. In addition, on its profile, the employee claimed to be responsible for the business development in Asia and to hold the position of director, while actually only holding the position of business development manager. As its employer, the Belgian company argued that the employee’s comments were irreconcilable with the position the employee held. Furthermore, it claimed that the untrue representation as director on the employee’s Facebook profile worsened the situation because it gave more gravity to the significance of the comments.

In his defense, the employee argued that his right to privacy as laid down in the Belgian Data Protection Acts and in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated because his Facebook profile was checked by his employer without his consent.

In its judgment, the Labour Court of Leuven found that in this case there was no violation of the employee’s privacy rights. It stated that, if an employee makes use of a social network and identifies himself on this network as a member of a company’s personnel, the employee has to refrain from acting or making statements in a way which could either be disloyal or detrimental for the company. (LL)

The case can be found on http://www.juridat.be