In the context of the execution of an employment contract, an employer is permitted to inform its employees about the mere fact that an employment contract was terminated. However, the principle of data minimisation must be taken into account. This means that the information provided must be limited to what is strictly necessary to achieve the purpose, namely an appropriate personnel policy.
Two former employees considered that their former employer violated the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when it informed the other staff members by e-mail about their dismissal and the circumstances leading up to it. Consequently, both filed a complaint with the Data Protection Authority (DPA). Complainant 1 also claimed financial compensation.
Both complaints were combined and handled in one file.
Decision by the Litigation Chamber of the DPA
Lawfulness of the processing
The DPA considered that the processing by the employer of personal data of its ex-employees must be deemed lawful since its processing is within the framework of the termination of the employment relationship and is therefore part of the execution of the employment contract.
Principle of data minimisation
However, the employer must take into account the principle of data minimisation. This principle determines that the personal data should be sufficient and relevant and that its processing should stay limited to what is necessary to achieve the goal.
The mere factual announcement that the cooperation with Complainant 1 was discontinued and that he will no longer appear at the workplace is considered legitimate by the DPA as no more information was communicated than what was strictly necessary for the intended purpose, namely conducting an appropriate personnel policy.
On the other hand, the DPA considered the mention of the circumstances preceding the dismissal, i.e., the number of warnings and the number of corrective interviews, to be excessive and therefore impermissible. Consequently, the DPA considered that the employer had violated the above-mentioned principle in its communication concerning the dismissal of Complainant 2. The Litigation Chamber of the DPA issued a reprimand to the employer due to a violation of the principle of data minimisation.
Finally, the Litigation Chamber ruled that the claim for financial compensation by Complainant 1 could not be granted as it did not have that power and no violation could otherwise be found.
Always make sure that the information in a communication to employees concerning the departure of employees is limited to what is strictly necessary.