Köpke v. Germany
European Court of Human Rights
5 October 2010
The applicant Ms.Köpke was a supermarket cashier. She was dismissed without notice for theft at the workplace, which was found out through a covert video surveillance operation carried out by her employer. She challenged her dismissal before the labor courts, but her complaint was rejected.
Ms.Köpke complained that the video surveillance and the subsequent use of this material in proceedings against her violated her right to private life.
The Court ruled that the video surveillance had been carried out in accordance with law, served a legitimate purpose and was proportionate, as, among other things, there were no other means how to find out whether Ms.Köpke was stealing from her workplace. Thus Ms.Köpke’s right to private life had not been violated.
The Court found that:
- A covert video surveillance of an employee at workplace entails a recorded and reproducible documentation of a person\'s conduct, which the employee, being obliged under the employment contract to perform the work in that place, cannot evade.
- The interference was necessary to reach a legitimate aim, namely, the protection of employer’s property rights and the public interest in the proper administration of justice.
- Although Ms.Köpke was filmed at her workplace without her knowledge:
- The covert video surveillance was started only after Ms.Köpke was suspected of stealing;
- The surveillance was applied only for two weeks and covered only the area which as such was accessible to the public;
- There were no other alternative means how to find whether or not Ms.Köpke was stealing from her workplace.