• The Financial District


Swedish fashion retailer H&M has been fined 35.3 million euros ($41.4 million) by an ombudsman in Germany for collecting data on employees' private lives, Rachel More and Lennart Simonsson reported for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)

The monitoring targeted several hundred employees at a service center in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg, according to a statement released by Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg commissioner for data protection and freedom of information, on hursday. Caspar described the behavior as a "flagrant disregard of employee data protection," adding that the hefty fine was intended to deter other companies from taking similar action. The fine is the highest issued in Germany related to the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force in May 2018. It is the second-highest on the continent, after French regulators fined Google 50 million euros last year for a GDPR violation.

Since at least 2014, H&M management at the Nuremberg site gathered "extensive recordings of the private-life circumstances" of employees, the statement said. "Some supervisors acquired a broad knowledge of their employees' private lives through one-on-one and water-cooler conversations, ranging from rather harmless details to family problems and religious beliefs," it added. 

The employees would be invited to "Welcome Back Talks" after periods of sick leave or holiday absences, after which details were often recorded and digitally stored in a system "readable for up to 50 other managers throughout the company."

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