A recent article in The New York Times noted that every one of Volkswagen’s (VW) manufacturing plants in the world has an employee works council except one: the VW plant in Chattanooga, TN. Works councils are popular in VW’s home country of Germany and created by a directive in the European Union. This directive mandates employees have a voice in working with management about working conditions in their environment.
U.S. chief privacy officers (CPOs) and their European counterparts—data protection officers (DPOs)—often work with works councils in many areas but especially in protecting employee privacy. In fact, German DPOs and their corporate works councils have a reputation for being strong defenders in protecting privacy rights. Want to monitor e-mail or social media in the workplace? Centralize your HR records in the U.S.? Or ready to add a whistleblower hotline? The German Works Council Act, for example, empowers the works council to agree or refuse consent of many employee-monitoring devices. All of these require consultation in advance of the organization’s works council, and you can expect to hear a strong statement in support of protecting privacy rights!