Data transfer to US authorities: bank employees' right to receive copies of delivered documents

25. April 2014 – The Zurich Court of Appeal upheld the first instance decision that a Swiss bank is obliged to provide its former employee with copies of documents containing his personal data, which had been transferred to US authorities (see decision of Zurich Court of Appeal, case no. LB130059-O/U; decision of Zurich Court of First Instance, case no. CG120124-L/U).

The background of this litigation is the tax dispute between the USA and Swiss banks. Banks – which are authorised to cooperate with US authorities – may transfer requested data to US authorities, provided they comply with data protection and employment law provisions.

In this regard, a former employee of a Swiss bank and Swiss and US-American dual citizen asserted his right to obtain copies of all transferred documents relating to his person from his former employer. The bank refused to deliver copies of the transferred documents, but offered the former employee access to the documents instead.

The court held that the interests of the former employee – in particular to have certainty not to be confronted with allegations by the US authorities while travelling to the USA – and the circumstances in the case at hand justify the delivery of copies to the employee (physically or electronically) and must not be limited to a sole access to the documents.

However, the Zurich Court of Appeal’s decision is not yet final and the bank may file an appeal against the judgement with the Swiss Federal Supreme Court.

Nota Bene

A similar decision was also rendered by the Court of Geneva in October 2013. Other procedures with regard to data transfer of such employee data to US authorities were initiated in Geneva as well (see decision of Geneva Court of First Instance of 21 June 2013, see news; confirmed by the Cantonal Court of Geneva in December 2013, see news).