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The Decision of Turkish Constitutional Court about the Violation of an Employee’s Right of Privacy

Turkish Constitutional Court (“Court”) issued its decision no.2017/14907 regarding a rightful termination of the employment contract because of immoral conduct. The decision was published in the Official Gazette dated 09.12.2020 numbered 31329. The Court stated that termination of the employment contract due to the personal life and immoral situation of an employee can not be the only reason for termination of the employment contract. The full text of the decision can be reached via https://www.resmigazete.gov.tr/eskiler/2020/12/20201209-6.pdf.


Background of the Decision


The applicant’s employment contract was terminated on 05.02.2015 stating that the employee (the applicant) was having a relationship with one of their co-workers. Additionally, the employer alleged that the co-worker’s partner having learned the relationship, made a phone call to the company and denounced the applicant as a suicide bomber which resulted in a chain of events such as inspection from Police Officers, loss of production and mass of anxiety in the office. In the termination letter, the applicant’s alleged relationship with another co-worker was underlined as a termination cause.


The applicant firstly, filed a reemployment lawsuit before Manisa 1st Labor Court. Manisa 1st Labor Court granted the applicant reemployment stating that the employer must provide any concrete evidences for their claims but the employer could not prove the termination cause. However, the employer appealed the decision before the Court of Appeal expressing that it is nearly impossible that there wouldn’t be any loss of production and given the chaos created by the denounce. In addition, the employer also emphasized that the co-worker whom the applicant was having the relationship with had acknowledged the existence of the relationship. Correspondingly, The Court of Appeal reversed the decision of the Court of First Instance and decided to dismiss the applicant’s claim of reemployment. The Court of Appeal stated that the relationship between two employees, which is resulted in the negative effects in the workplace, could be a termination cause with a valid reason.


Scope of the Decision of the Court


The applicant brought the case before the Court with the essential claim of right of privacy and right to a fair trial. The applicant emphasized that the relationships between employees other than business interactions are within the scope of their private life and it cannot be a rightful reason for termination unless it affects execution of working and occupational health and safety.


The Court evaluated the situation regarding the employer’s right to manage in order to assure a functional, healthy and safe workplace in contrast to the employee’s right of privacy. The Constitutional Court added that the interferences of the employer could not damage the principle of the fundamental rights of the employees. In this context, accepting the employee’s relationship with a co-worker is a rightful reason to terminate the employment agreement, shall not be compatible with the employee’s rightful expectation of the respect towards their fundamental rights and right of privacy. The Court also stated that the Court of Appeal did not execute a careful and effective judging about the causes of termination of the employment contract.


In conclusion, The Court awarded the violation of the right of privacy since the employer’s motivation for the termination was the relationship between the co-workers, and employer failed to demonstrate otherwise. The Constitutional Court decided that the violation can be resolved by a retrial. Therefore, they ordered a new judging to be made by Manisa 1st Labor Court, Court of First Instance, in accordance with the principles stated in this decision of the Constitutional Court.


Authors: Bilge Derinbay, Aysu Eren


Article contact: Bilge Derinbay / E-mail: bilge.derinbay@nsn-law.com