By Nerino Petro at 20 November, 2009, 7:09 am
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, some courts are backing away from the blanket concept that all emails sent using company equipment and networks are company property.In Some Courts Raise Bar on Reading Employee Email , the Wall Street Journal reports that some courts are starting to take a different view on personal emails sent via company networks or equipment. While in the recent past, Courts have held forth the concept that if something is sent using company resources, it belongs to the company, this may be changing. Or is it?
A closer review of the cases cited seems to indicate that the Courts should look at the policy that the company has as it applies to its employees. But shouldn’t employees have some reasonable expectation of privacy? Since they are being asked to do more with less, some employees are working more hours then ever. If the only time they have to access online accounts is on their breaks, shouldn’t that use be treated as private? This appears to be the argument that many employee lawyers are using in fighting employers when employers have accessed employee email and other elecr4onic communications. The other side of this argument is that an employer is paying an employee for x number of hours of work each day and is entitled to the employees attention and efforts while working. Since they are using company assets for personal business, there should be no expectation of privacy. And so the pendulum swings.
Ultimately, these cases will most likely result in companies rexaminig their internet use and privacy policies and making changes to insure that there is not doubt that anything sent across the company’s resources is subject to monitoring. However, expecting employees to work without any opportunity to take their mind off of work when they hit a wall or have a break. It has been my experience that these companies or firms that try to completely deny personal access to the internet and email have high employee turn over rates or high employee dissatisfaction. Often times, employees will deliberately work to circumvent any safeguards or limitations to gain access. Establish a reasonable internet and email use policy and include language that makes it clear that while they can use company resources for personal use, the company retains the right to review all information sent across its resources.