Hig­her Labour Court of Sax­o­ny on the defen­se against requests for infor­ma­ti­on in accordance with Artic­le 15 GDPR

After recent legal rulings of the Fede­ral Supre­me Court have drawn broad boun­da­ries for claims based on Artic­le 15 GDPR, the Hig­her Labour Court of Sax­o­ny has endea­vor­ed in its judgment of 17 Febru­ary 2021 (Ref. 2 Sa 63/20) (PDF only in Ger­man) to set limits to the claims. Such claims are now incre­asing­ly beco­ming the sub­ject of labour court dis­pu­tes. It is the­r­e­fo­re wort­hwhile for com­pa­nies to address the Cour­t’s reaso­ning in order to be able to fend off unju­s­ti­fied claims for infor­ma­ti­on in the future.

Sta­te of affairs

An employee was in dis­pu­te with his for­mer employ­er about bonu­ses, vaca­ti­on com­pen­sa­ti­on and com­pen­sa­ti­on for weekend work. In addi­ti­on, the employee asser­ted a cla­im for infor­ma­ti­on pur­su­ant to Artic­le 15 GDPR, as has fre­quent­ly been the case recent­ly in labour court pro­cee­dings, in order to obtain infor­ma­ti­on about all per­so­nal per­for­mance and conduct-related data stored by his for­mer employ­er in order to enforce his claims.

Mate­ri­al con­side­ra­ti­ons of the court

The Court con­side­red per­for­mance and conduct-related data of an employee to be per­so­nal data, to which a cla­im based on Artic­le 15 GDPR can also rela­te. Howe­ver, it denied the cla­im in this case, citing four reasons.

First­ly, fol­lo­wing the legal rulings of the Fede­ral Labour Court (BAG) (only in Ger­man), the cla­im fails, accor­ding to the Court, due to a lack of deter­mi­nacy. Pur­su­ant to § 253(2)2 of the Civil Pro­ce­du­re Code (only in Ger­man), the plain­ti­ff must file a spe­ci­fic cla­im, sta­ting the sub­ject of the cla­im and the grounds on which it is based. The plain­ti­f­f’s appli­ca­ti­on does not do this, sin­ce it is exhaus­ted, wit­hout jus­ti­fi­ca­ti­on, in the mere repro­duc­tion of the wor­ding of the law and lacks a con­cre­te state­ment of the facts. Unfort­u­na­te­ly, the ruling lacks any con­cre­te expl­ana­ti­ons as to what requi­re­ments are to be pla­ced on a cor­re­spon­ding request for information. 

Moreo­ver, the Court argues that the cla­im for infor­ma­ti­on is also con­tra­dic­ted by the inap­pro­pria­te pur­po­se pur­sued by the plain­ti­ff with it. The wor­ding of Artic­le 15 GDPR does not pro­vi­de for a rest­ric­tion of the right to infor­ma­ti­on to the pur­su­it of spe­ci­fic pur­po­ses. Howe­ver, the plain­ti­ff is attemp­ting to achie­ve a rever­sal of the bur­den of pro­of and expl­ana­ti­on through the right to infor­ma­ti­on based on Artic­le 15 GDPR. Yet, when clai­ming com­pen­sa­ti­on for over­ti­me, it is incum­bent upon the employee to sta­te the ext­ent to which he has work­ed over­ti­me. Artic­le 15 GDPR is not a tool for deter­mi­ning a sta­te of affairs that would estab­lish a cla­im. In this respect, in the view of the court, the cla­im also fails on the grounds of inappropriateness.

In accordance with Con­side­ra­ti­on 63, Sen­tence 7 of the GDPR (only in Ger­man), a con­trol­ler pro­ces­sing a lar­ge amount of infor­ma­ti­on about a data sub­ject may requi­re the data sub­ject to spe­ci­fy the infor­ma­ti­on to which his or her request for infor­ma­ti­on rela­tes. The plain­ti­ff did not com­ply with the cor­re­spon­ding repea­ted request of the defen­dant. In this respect, the defen­dant was also entit­led to refu­se to pro­vi­de the infor­ma­ti­on for this reason.

Final­ly, the request was exces­si­ve. Pur­su­ant to Artic­le 12(5), Sen­tence 1 GDPR, the con­trol­ler may refu­se to act on such requests. It is note­wor­t­hy that the Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Sax­o­ny does not refer to the scope of the reques­ted infor­ma­ti­on, but again to an inap­pro­pria­te pur­po­se. The request was to be con­side­red exces­si­ve becau­se it was not made in accordance with the pur­po­se of the GDPR, but, inap­pro­pria­te­ly, in con­nec­tion with mone­ta­ry claims.

Our assess­ment – rele­van­ce of the ruling for companies

The Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Sax­o­ny limits claims based on Artic­le 15 GDPR and endea­vors to put a stop to their inap­pro­pria­te use. From a com­pany’s point of view, this is to be wel­co­med, as the inap­pro­pria­te use of requests for infor­ma­ti­on can other­wi­se signi­fi­cant­ly shift exis­ting rules on the bur­den of expl­ana­ti­on and pro­of. At the same time, the Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Sax­o­ny demons­tra­tes the argu­men­ta­ti­on that can be used to defend against unju­s­ti­fied requests for infor­ma­ti­on. Howe­ver, it remains to be seen whe­ther the Cour­t’s reaso­ning will hold up in fur­ther legal rulings.

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