A secretary has received almost 20,000 GBP in compensation after being fired for sending rude messages about her boss on WhatsApp.
The female secretary working for an unnamed company in Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city and a major banking and business hub, complained in a chat on WhatsApp about how the atmosphere at her work had taken a downturn.
She wrote to a colleague of hers that her boss was a “sh*t social phobic” and reportedly also used even harsher terms to describe her superior.
The secretary, however, used WhatsApp on her company phone and did not know it was regularly checked by the company to prevent people from installing private apps on it.
Even though she had removed the SIM card from the phone she did not realise that WhatsApp conversations were stored in the phone’s memory, allowing the company to read what she had to say about her boss, which resulted in her being promptly fired from her job.
However, the secretary complained at a Zurich labour court saying that her chats were part of her private sphere – even when they were being written on a company phone.
She won her first victory in court in August 2018, with the judge ruling that the termination of her contract had been unlawful and that she needed to be paid her salary during the normal notice period for contractual termination, unused holidays and an additional monthly salary totalling 22,887 CHF (18,413 GBP).
The company appealed the sentence, but an appeals court has now sided with the woman as well and upheld the original ruling, even ordering the company to pay an additional 2,300 CHF (1,850 GBP) to the woman in compensation for judicial costs.
The judge said that the company did not have the right to read all the conversation threads and was only allowed to determine the scope of use, such as how long a worker spends with an app.
If non-allowed apps were installed on a company phone it would be sufficient for the company to simply uninstall them.
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