Seehofer calls for employee protection

Germany’s consumer protection minister Horst Seehofer has called for a law to regulate gathering information on employees after revelations that discount retailer Lidl had secretly monitored its workers.

Seehofer calls for employee protection
Photo: DPA

“Lidl’s surveillance methods are unworthy… and unacceptable,” Seehofer said in an interview to be published Sunday in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “The incident clearly shows that we need a law on protecting data concerning employees.”

Seehofer added that “given modern technological possibilities, such a law should have appeared a long time ago,” saying “an exemplary fine” was indispensable.

German news media reported last week that Lidl was under investigation for violations of labour and data protection laws by installing hidden cameras in its stores to systematically

keep tabs on staff.

Weekly news magazine Stern said the monitoring extended to recording when employees used the toilet, their conversations while on break, and making note of their friends outside work.

Lidl said it was “shocked” by the accusations and had installed surveillance equipment to cut down on shoplifting.

“In particular, the accusation that we ‘spied’ on our co-workers in no way corresponds with our guiding principles and the fair way we treat our co-workers,” Lidl’s head of human resources, Juergen Kisseberth, said in a statement.

Kisseberth said none of the information and images collected were used for anything but investigating theft but that Lidl had, long before the reports were published, stopped working with private security consultants who had the secret cameras installed.

“We have now decided to protect our property exclusively with visible camera systems, together with our staff,” he said. German labour unions had previously criticized Lidl’s labour practices but the new accusations are the most severe to date. The privately-held company is one of Germany’s biggest discount retailers.