On 1 October 2020, the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (HmbBfDI) announced a fine of EUR 35,258,707.95 was imposed against a clothing-retailer for unlawful monitoring of its employees in the Hamburg service center.
According to the HmbBfDI press release, at least since 2014, parts of the retailer’s workforce have been subject to extensive recording of details about their private lives. In a nutshell:
- after employees absences (vacations and sick leave, even short absences), the supervising team leaders conducted the so-called Welcome Back Talks with their employees, in which context, in many cases, several data were recorded, such as employees’ concrete vacation experiences, symptoms of illness and diagnoses;
- furthermore, in some cases, a broad knowledge of the employees’ private lives was acquired by several supervisors through personal and floor talks, ranging from rather harmless details to family issues and religious beliefs from which some was recorded, digitally stored and partly readable by several managers throughout the company.
HmbBfDI stated that the company management has not only expressly apologized to those affected, it has also agreed to pay the employees a considerable amount of damages, this being an unprecedented acknowledgment of responsibility following a data protection violation.
The full press release is available here.