Key facts of the case:
The plaintiff worked for the respondent who produces automobiles. The respondent provided a car with a tank capacity of 93 litres and a fuel card for the plaintiff, that the plaintiff was allowed to use also for private purposes. In May 2013 the respondent opened an internal investigation into an apparent leak of confidential company information. In the course of the investigation the plaintiff’s work laptop was forensically examined. He fully cooperated, but mentioned the presence of private information on the laptop, among others he kept accurate records in an Microsoft Excel file about all the refuelling procedures paid for with the company’s fuel card. Based on the entries in this Excel file, the respondent suspected that the plaintiff had used the fuel card not only for his staff car but also for a private vehicle, as he had bought up to 101 litres of fuel on more than one occasion. Thus, the respondent terminated the employment relationship due to the loss of mutual trust. Against this decision the plaintiff lodged a complaint with the local labour court, the decision of which to continue the employment relationship was successfully challenged by the respondent in the next instance. In his appeal the plaintiff demanded the Federal Labour Court to restore the first instance decision.
Key legal question:
The Federal Labour Court examined the question whether the court of appeal had considered the information in the Excel table found on the plaintiff’s work laptop – apparently of private origin – in accordance with the Code of Civil Procedure’s (Zivilprozessordnung) rules concerning the assessment of evidence.
Outcome of the case:
The Federal Labour Court held that the information on the plaintiff’s laptop was obtained in an admissible way by the respondent, especially in accordance with the national data protection regulations, and that therefore the evidence was applicable for the court’s ruling. In the present case the reconciliation of interests lead to the conclusion that the investigative measures executed by the employer did not violate the plaintiff’s right to privacy, in particular as the forensic examination did not happen covertly and was consented by the plaintiff.
“The Court of Appeal was allowed to consider the file “fuel receipts.xls” in its assessment. The respondent's corresponding submission is not subject to any prohibition of the exploitation of evidence. […] The principle of proportionality considered by the Senate when applying Section 32 (1) 1 of the German Federal Data Protection Act (old version) satisfies the requirements established by Directive 95/46/EC as well as Article 7 of the Fundamental Rights Charter of the European Union (CJEU, judgement of 11 December 2014 - C-212/13 - [Ryneš] para. 28) and Article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (CJEU, judgement of 9 November 2010 - C-92/09 and C-93/09 -[Volker and Markus Schecke] para. 52; Federal Labour Court, judgement of 19 February 2015 - 8 AZR 1007/13 – paras. 20 and following) for the protection of persons affected by data collections (Federal Labour Court, judgement of 23 August 2018 - 2 AZR 133/18 – recital 25; European Court of Human Rights, judgement of 5 October 2010 - 420/07 - [Köpke/Germany]).“
(paras. 48 and following)
„Das Berufungsgericht durfte die Inhalte der Datei „Tankbelege.xls“ in seine Würdigung einbeziehen. Der entsprechende Sachvortrag der Beklagten unterliegt keinem Verwertungsverbot. […] Der vom Senat bei der Anwendung von § 32 Abs. 1 Satz 1 BDSG aF (Bundesdatenschutzgesetz – alte Fassung) herangezogeneVerhältnismäßigkeitsgrundsatz genügt dem durch die Richtlinie 95/46/EG sowie Art. 7der Charta der Grundrechte der Europäischen Union (dazu EuGH 11. Dezember 2014 - C-212/13 - [Ryneš] Rn. 28) und Art. 8 der Europäischen Konvention zum Schutz der Menschenrechte und Grundfreiheiten (dazu EuGH 9. November 2010 - C-92/09 und C-93/09 -[Volker und Markus Schecke] Rn. 52; BAG 19. Februar 2015 - 8 AZR 1007/13 - Rn. 20 f.) garantierten Schutzniveau für die von einer Datenerhebung Betroffenen (BAG 23. August2018 - 2 AZR 133/18 - Rn. 25; EGMR 5. Oktober 2010 - 420/07 - [Köpke/Deutschland]).” (Rn. 48 ff.)