Constant reachability in has become somewhat of an expectation in today's working world. Many employers expect to be able to get hold of their staff at any time, whether they are working or not. Such is the expectation that many employees hand over their personal contact details freely, including private phone numbers. But is an employer really entitled to it?
The German regional labour court of Thuringia recently answered this question (case no 5 Ca 163/17 and 5 Ca 125/17). The case concerned a municipal employer who demanded that employees provide their private mobile phone numbers following a change in the system for on-call duties. Their aim was to be able to reach employees in case of emergencies, even during times that fell outside their on-call duty. Some employees refused to share their private mobile numbers and received written warnings. The employees took action to demand the removal of the warnings from the personnel file.
The regional labour court, upholding the decision of the lower court, held that the employer must remove the written warnings from the personnel files on the basis that the employer's obligation to provide private mobile numbers deeply intervened in the personal lives of employees. If they were to provide their numbers the result would mean that they were constantly available to the employer and therefore would not be able to rest. The court found that the employee's interests of data protection prevail over the right to informational self-determination.
The decision does not mean that employers can never request information about private mobile phone numbers from employees.
Accessibility and communication channels can be agreed in an employment contract. In doing so, care must be taken to comply with all legal requirements, such as working hours.
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