Violation of privacy rights may not have impact to the validity of the termination of employment
One legal question was whether the employee has breached his employment obligations. The other question was whether violation of privacy rights by the employer has impact on the termination of employment.
The Hungarian Curia maintained the decisions of the labor court (court of first instance) and the tribunal (court of second instance) according to which the termination of the employee with immediate effect was lawful.
The plaintiff violated the IT rules of the defendant by storing explicit pornographic content on the laptop which formed a part of the defendant’s property and with this breached the employer's policy of content storage. Nearly 1 000 work-related data (files) were intentionally destroyed by the employee, which were the exclusive property of the employer as well as qualified trade secrets. The plaintiff destroyed the data concerning the defendant's business and its operation by illegally installing software which was a sufficient reason in itself to terminate the employment relationship of the plaintiff with immediate effect according to the Hungarian case law. He also installed unauthorized software, called File Shredder, so that the explicit content can be destroyed intentionally together with the employer's confidential information. Internal regulations in force at the defendant did not allow him to install any software which originated from sources other than the defendant, and which was not authorized. As aggravating circumstances it was also taken into consideration that the plaintiff worked as one of the highest-ranking managers so he had access to almost all of the confidential information in relation to the operation of the defendant. The plaintiff was required to comply with the internal rules of the employment contract according to which the plaintiff had to familiarize himself with the IT policy.
The plaintiff referred to his right to privacy and to the Hungarian Data Protection’s standard practice according to which the content stored on the company device did not form the property of the employer. Furthermore he claimed that the employer did not take it into consideration that the above mentioned content was his private data which the defendant did not handle lawfully. However, the plaintiff was allowed to remove and save the problematic data from the company device for personal purposes. The defendant terminated the plaintiff’s employment relationship because of his subsequent wrongful conduct.
The question to be assessed was whether the plaintiff breached his material obligations of his employment by destroying confidential records of the employer. In Hungary the labour law and civil law enforcement is mostly separated and in this case the plaintiff’s behavior was evaluated in the context of employment regulations. Consequently, the findings of the National Data Protection Authority had no conclusive significance.