HM was fined more than $41 million for allegedly tracking the private lives of hundreds of employees in a company database.
According to the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, a German data protection authority, managers at the Swedish retailer’s customer center in Nuremberg have been meticulously keeping notes on employee holidays, illness, religious beliefs and family problems since at least 2014.
Those notes, based on workplace meetings and one-on-one interviews, were used to assess employees’ job performance and make decisions about their “employment relationship,” regulators said on Thursday, calling H&M’s practices a “particularly intense interference” with employees . Right.
The details recorded by supervisors were sometimes visible to up to 50 other managers, officials said. But a “configuration error” exposed the data company-wide for a few hours in October 2019, an incident that Watchdog says has brought H&M’s practices to the attention of regulators.
Data protection officer Johannes Caspar said the monitoring showed a “serious disregard” for employees’ data protection. The €35.2 million fine his office imposed on H&M is the second highest imposed so far, after European Union data protection laws that came into force in 2018. according to Forbes.
“The amount of the fine imposed is accordingly appropriate and suitable to deter companies from infringing on the privacy of their employees,” Caspar said in a statement.
H&M – which employs around 179,000 people worldwide – said it would “carefully review” the regulator’s decision and promised to pay “financial compensation” to anyone who worked at the Nuremberg center for at least a month since May 2018.
The Stockholm-based company said it has taken several steps to protect the privacy of its employees, including changing the management staff at the service center and providing additional training for managers.
“The incident revealed practices regarding the processing of employees’ personal data that did not comply with H&M’s policies and instructions,” the fashion giant said said in a statement. “H&M takes full responsibility and would like to apologize unreservedly to the employees of the service center in Nuremberg.”