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Employee unlawfully dismissed for covert surveillance of employer

In a twist from the usual scenario, a recent EAT decision finds that the dismissal of an employee who set up a secret camera was unfair. In the case of Northbay Pelagic Limited v Colin Anderson Mr Anderson set up a web enabled camera in the office to monitor anyone who might be entering it and attempting to access the computer.
Survellience

In a twist from the usual scenario, a recent EAT decision finds that the dismissal of an employee who set up a secret camera was unfair. In the case of Northbay Pelagic Limited v Colin Anderson Mr Anderson set up a web enabled camera in the office to monitor anyone who might be entering it and attempting to access the computer.

The relationship between Mr Anderson, an employee and director of NPL, and his fellow company directors had deteriorated. He became suspicious that they were trying to gain access to his computer, which was in his private office, while he was absent (suspended for a number of other alleged acts of misconduct).

While it was not clear whether the camera captured footage of anyone, Mr Anderson – who thought he was the sole key holder for the office – became aware that someone had entered the room as the camera had been moved. As a consequence of this he disclosed to NPL the existence of the camera. NPL believed that the covert surveillance was unlawful, and they subsequently added this to the other misconduct issues that Mr Anderson was already under investigation for.

NPL used HR consultants to carry out a disciplinary procedure. The HR consultants also believed the covert monitoring to be unlawful and Mr Anderson was dismissed for this and a number of other acts of misconduct. Mr Anderson subsequently successfully claimed he had been unfairly dismissed. The employment tribunal rejected NPL’s conclusion that Mr Anderson had breached the law by installing the covert camera in his office.

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