Friday, November 20, 2009

Work Email: "I Always Feel Like ... Somebody's Watching Me"

Bigbortherorwell No, this post is not about the singer Rockwell or that annoying Geico commercial, but about whether you should just assume that your boss monitors your email.

A new Wall Street Journal article suggests that is what exactly may be happening, but now there is some push back from employees and their advocates:

Big Brother is watching. That is the message corporations routinely send their employees about using email.

But recent cases have shown that employees sometimes have more privacy rights than they might expect when it comes to the corporate email server. Legal experts say that courts in some instances are showing more consideration for employees who feel their employer has violated their privacy electronically . . .

In past years, courts showed sympathy for corporations that monitored personal email accounts accessed over corporate computer networks. Generally, judges treated corporate computers, and anything on them, as company property.

Now, courts are increasingly taking into account whether employers have explicitly described how email is monitored to their employees.

That was what happened in a case earlier this year in New Jersey, when an appeals court ruled that an employee of a home health-care company had a reasonable expectation that email sent on a personal account wouldn't be read.

To be honest, I don't think this a new trend at all (though it makes a nice theme in a WSJ story). Since I was practicing management side employment law back in the late 90s, we would advise clients routinely that they had to have clear language in their employee handbooks that employees had no expectation of privacy in their computers, internet browsing, or emails.

Nothing new, but still a good practice for employers to follow if they want to avoid this type of lawsuit.

Hat Tip: Joe Seiner

PS

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/laborprof_blog/2009/11/work-email-i-always-feel-like-somebodys-watching-me.html

Workplace Trends | Permalink

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