An employer cannot simply force his staff to hand over a fingerprint that gives the employee access to a system. The obligation to do so is contrary to Dutch privacy law, the Amsterdam District Court decided after an employee of the Manfield shoe chain, together with the company, asked the court for clarity.
Manfield has cash registers in its stores that work on the basis of a fingerprint scan. Employees of the shoe store can only open the cash register if they can log in by making a scan of their finger, which is then recognized in the system.
The court points out that the balance of power between the employee and employer can lead to a situation in which the personnel do not give their consent entirely voluntarily.
In some cases it is permitted for a company to process a fingerprint without permission, but the use of a fingerprint must be necessary and proportional in that case.
Manfield's argument that the fingerprint scanning system is necessary to protect the cash register system against intruders has been rejected by the court. Previously, Manfield used a cash register system where staff had to log in with a code, but that was replaced because the company thought it was old-fashioned. An alternative that would make the privacy of staff less intrusive, such as a physical access pass, would also not be sufficient, according to Manfield.
The judge does not agree with that. For example, Manfield could have considered an access pass, employee pass and a numerical code, possibly in combination with each other, to protect its business interests. Manfield did not make it sufficiently clear to the court and substantiated why the company chose the fingerprint system over an alternative.
The shoe store and the Manfield employee have agreed not to appeal against the decision in the case.