The Czech Supreme court has recently ruled that frequent private use of an employer’s computer equipment by an employee is a valid reason for which an employer may validly terminate a contract of employment. This decision has significantly increased legal certainty when interpreting the relevant Czech Labour Code provisions.
Under Section 316 (1) of the Labour Code, employees shall not use an employer’s means of production, including computer or telecommunication equipment, for personal use without the consent of the employer. To ensure this prohibition is being complied with, the employer is entitled to exercise reasonable control over the employees.
However, in Section 316 (2) the Labour Code also stipulates conditions which an employer must comply with when monitoring its employees (these conditions mainly include the existence of a justified reason for such monitoring, such a reason relating to the nature of the employer’s business and prior information regarding the employee). Before the Supreme Court’s decision, it was debated whether the conditions stipulated by the Labour Code for monitoring employees would also extend to monitoring the way in which employees used their employers property.
The Supreme Court has now ruled that the rules governing how employees are monitored shall not apply where an employer performs an inspection for the purpose of protecting its property interests. If such an inspection is carried out in an adequate manner, which does not excessively interfere with the employee’s privacy, then such an inspection shall be lawful, even if the above mentioned general conditions concerning the monitoring of employees are not met. This also means that in practice an employer is entitled to perform such an inspection without giving prior notice to its employees.
In the above mentioned decision, the Supreme Court has confirmed that an employer is allowed to gather evidence against an employee who they suspect of violating the statutory ban on using an employer’s means of production without consent. The employer can use such evidence in court proceedings against such an employee. Whether the manner of an inspection will be deemed adequate will still need to be assessed on a case by case basis. This determination will mainly depend on whether the control was preliminary or subsequent, on the conduct and scope of the inspection and on how such an inspection affected the employee’s work performance and privacy.
We believe that the Supreme Court’s decision may increase the confidence of employers when asserting their rights in the workplace and subsequently increase the amount of employment relationships being terminated due to the employee’s private use of their employer’s computer or telephone equipment.