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The right to privacy of workers in WhatsApp groups

In judgment 21029-2022, the Constitutional Chamber set out its view regarding the right to privacy of collaborators in WhatsApp groups. The Chamber´s conclusion may be of great interest to both employers and workers. In this blog we analyze this case.

A Social Studies teacher in a public school complained before the court that his supervisor had violated his fundamental rights. The appellant claimed that his supervisor ordered him to issue a report on the use of her image in a WhatsApp group in which both this teacher and his students were members.

The Chamber considered it proven that the petitioner sent a «sticker» with the image of the director of the educational center to a WhatsApp group. The members of this group were the teacher and his students. In addition, it was proven that the mother of one of those students communicated this fact to the director. Given this situation, the director asked the teacher for a report on the use of her image in the WhatsApp group.

In the opinion of the Court, “despite the fact that communications through the WhatsApp messaging application are private, in this particular case the respondent did not obtain the image illegitimately and it is a chat for academic purposes in which both the parents of family or legal guardians, such as the staff of educational centers have the obligation to be vigilant of the conversations that occur within this context”.

In light of the above, the use of images or messages in WhatsApp groups or other types of applications could well have disciplinary repercussions. Obtaining these images or conversations legitimately by the employer, in the opinion of the Chamber, cannot be considered a violation of the fundamental rights of the worker.

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We are located in San José, Barrio Escalante.

M.Sc. Ana Isabel Sibaja Rojas

CELIG – Center for Equal Litigation