In its decision of May 3, 2016, the 22nd Civil Chamber of the Court of Appeals confirmed the right of employers to supervise their employees’ use of computers. Esin Attorney Partnership acted as the employer’s counsel in the dispute.
Facts of the Case
One of our clients (“Employer“) received a notice of termination from one of its employees. The employee resigned on the grounds of retirement, intending to effectuate the termination at the end of the notice period. Before the end of the notice period, the Employer conducted an examination on the employee’s work computer, discovering that he had been engaging in talks with one of the Employer’s global competitors, breaching his non-compete obligations as well as his duty of loyalty. Upon learning of the true reasons behind the employee’s resignation, the Employer sent an instant termination notice for just cause.
Following this development, the employee filed a lawsuit for the collection of his severance pay, to which he would have been entitled if the Employer had not terminated his employment for just cause.
Highlights from the Decision
Firstly, the Court of Appeals upheld the second instant termination notice on the grounds that the employment contract was still in effect during the notice period initiated by the employee. In examining the validity of the Employer’s termination notice, the Court of Appeals underlined that employees’ work computer usage, as well as email messages, are subject to employer scrutiny at all times and employees may not use work computers for personal use. A criminal complaint filed against the Employer in relation to the same incident was also dismissed on the same grounds. As such, employers are entitled to utilize the information gathered on employees’ work computers when evidencing just cause for termination.
The second remarkable aspect of this decision is that the Court of Appeals overturned its own decision during the second appeal on grounds of a substantial mistake, which very rarely occurs in Turkish appellate proceedings. The court referred to one of the oldest precedents, citing that the Court of Appeals may vacate its own judgment if there is substantial error, regardless of a previous decision vesting rights to one of the parties of the proceedings.
The 22nd Civil Chamber of the Court of Appeals confirmed an employer’s right to supervise employee activity on work computers, solidifying the precedent on this issue. This decision will also affect criminal complaints concerning violation of the right to privacy. The Court of Appeals overturning its own judgment sets a notable practice for appellate reviews, and demonstrates that rectifying substantial mistakes takes precedence over the acquired procedural rights of parties.