The right to information according to Art. 15 GDPR – ruling of the Bundesarbeitsgericht does not bring clarity

von Nadja-Maria

Even in the context of an employment relationship or after its termination, an employee has the right to information about the processing of his or her data pursuant to Art. 15 GDPR. So far, so clear. As in many cases, the problems begin with a detailed examination.

In the case of Art. 15 GDPR, the scope of the claim is disputed, particularly with regard to e-mails accrued in the context of an employment relationship. Does the employer have to hand over all emails in which the data subject was the sender or recipient or in which the data subject was only mentioned upon request?

Judicial proceedings

This was precisely the issue at stake in a legal dispute that has now come to a (provisional) end before the Federal Labor Court.

The plaintiff in this case is a commercial lawyer who demanded information from his former employer about the data processed and the surrender of this data pursuant to Art. 15 (3) GDPR. With regard to the information about the data, the legal dispute could be declared settled by mutual agreement. However, the plaintiff is still pursuing the issue of a copy of all emails concerning him in court.

After the action before the Regional Labor Court was only partially successful, the plaintiff continued to contest the legal action and is appealing to the Federal Labor Court.

Decision of the Federal Labor Court

This step was also unsuccessful for the plaintiff, and the Federal Labor Court rejected his appeal in a decision dated April 27, 2021 (BAG, judgment dated April 27, 2021, file no. 2 AZR 342/20).

However, the decision does not mean that the plaintiff’s claim did not exist to the extent requested, i.e. that he had no right to request a copy of all e-mails. Rather, the court was able to leave this question open. The claim was dismissed for procedural reasons. According to the Federal Labor Court, the plaintiff’s request was too vague. The plaintiff would have had to either specify the e-mails to be handed over more precisely or, insofar as this was not possible for him, assert his claim by way of a step-by-step action.

Data protection outlook

From a data protection perspective, it is to be regretted. The long-awaited ruling of the Federal Labor Court did not provide any clarity on the scope of Art. 15 GDPR. However, it can be assumed that further court decisions will be issued in a timely manner on Art. 15 GDPR with regard to company e-mail traffic. In particular, since the Federal Labor Court has indicated a procedural path by which a plaintiff can at least obtain a decision on the merits.


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Nadja-Maria leitet unser Inhouse-Juristen-Team. Sie studierte an der Universität Passau Rechtswissenschaften mit anschließendem Referendariat sowie erstem und zweitem Staatsexamen. Ihr Spezialgebiet ist Datenschutzrecht. Ihr fundiertes Wissen hält sie jederzeit aktuell. Für unsere Kunden und unser Team hat sie so immer einen Rat für eine passgenaue Lösung parat.