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Labour Law | Requesting documents pertaining to an employee’s personal life does not necessarily characterize infringement on the right to privacy in its private and family life

Decision by the Social Chamber of the Court of Cassation dated May 3, 2018 (Cass. Soc. 3 mai 2018, n°17-11.048).

While it is customary for an employer to request certain personal documents for operational purposes, there is nevertheless sensitive information in an employee’s private life that an employer is not allowed to request.

Requesting documents pertaining to an employee’s personal life does not necessarily characterize infringement on the right to privacy in their private and family life. That is the conclusion that should be drawn further to a ruling by the Social Chamber of the Court of Cassation dated May 3, 2018 (Cass. Soc. 3 mai 2018, n°17-11.048).

To justify her claim for damages, an employee referred to a clause in her employment contract requiring that she informs her employer of any changes occurring to her name (marital status), family situation, or place of residence.

The question put to the Court of Cassation was therefore to know whether the employer could, based on that clause, lawfully collect such information.

The Court of Cassation judges answered in the affirmative, even though the laws on the matter are clearly established and protect employees from excessive interference by the employer in the employee’s private life (*). Indeed, the judges considered that the Court of Appeal had validly held that “the information requested was necessary in order for the employer to assure the employee’s rights” and that, as such, the litigious clause could not constitute a breach of the employee’s fundamental rights and freedoms.

By means of the present ruling, the Social Chamber reiterated the scope of the notion of ‘interference in an employee’s privacy’ and rejected such a condition when the request for personal information is in the employee’s interest.

(*) Article 9 of the French Civil Code, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and Article L1121-1 of the French Labour Law.

© Schmidt Brunet Litzler