German luxury carmaker Daimler has come under fire for carrying out blood tests on potential employees. A leading privacy advocate has condemned the practice as illegal and called for the information to be deleted.
Data protection officials want to examine Daimler's testing regime
The automobile concern has defended the procedure as "completely normal" and denied any legal violations.
Daimler spokeswoman Dominique Albrecht said health checks and blood tests had been taking place for the last 30 years with the consent of the works council at the time. The tests only take place in the final stages of the job selection process, she said .
But the deputy head of Schleswig Holstein's data protection center, Marit Hansen, told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper that Daimler's policy breaks "all existing data protection regulations."
"It is clearly illegal. The data has to be deleted and all those affected have to be informed," Hansen said.
How much should a company know about its employees?
The Daimler spokeswoman told Deutsche Welle that the company had a duty to protect employees with medical conditions.
"The blood tests are voluntary. You do not have to consent to one. They are general examinations," Albrecht said, adding that she did not know whether the tests checked for alcohol and drugs.
Details of the tests, she said, were not passed on by company doctors to the personnel department, but remained protected by the Hippocratic oath. Medical staff only informed management whether or not a candidate was suitable for a certain post.
Labor law specialist Martina Perreng told dpa news agency that it would be very difficult for applicants to decline to take a test. "I can refuse, but, in cases of doubt, I won't get the job," said Perreng, who works for the Confederation of German Trade Unions.
Data protection specialist Marit Hansen also said that jobseekers had no real chance of refusing the tests. However, she said applicants who had been turned down for a job on the basis of the health checks had a good chance of suing the company successfully.
She said that medical data should have no influence on application procedures except in isolated cases, such as the medical profession.
Daimler job applicants have to consent to blood tests
Data protection authorities in Stuttgart, the location of Daimler's headquarters, said that the company had been asked to explain the nature and dimension of the tests.
Daimler spokeswoman Albrecht said the company had already submitted the information to the authorities.
The luxury vehicle-maker was criticized by privacy advocates in April for collecting and storing employee health data at its Mercedes plant in Bremen.
Reporter: Julie Gregson
Editor: Sam Edmonds