We use email all day, every day, but there are still plenty of gray areas around the use of it when it comes to employee privacy. And the laws and court rulings keep evolving.
To test your knowledge of how courts have ruled in cases involving email at work, answer True or False to the following (Answers below):
1. If employees take their personal computers to work, supervisors can demand to see any emails
the employees send or receive on those computers while at work.
2. Using a company computer, an employee logs onto a personal email account. The employee leaves the workstation without logging out. A supervisor walks by and sees an email message that violates company policy. The employee cannot be disciplined for it.
3. When filing legal complaints, employees are not allowed to obtain emails between you and other supervisors or other employees if those emails were sent only within the company’s email system.
1. True. Courts have ruled that any emails sent or received at work, even on an employee’s personal computer, can be accessed.In one particular court case, an employee who was about to quit was sending proprietary information to a competitor. The court ruled that the supervisor had a legal right to demand to see the emails.
2. False. If an employee on a work computer fails to log out of a personal account, there is no privacy violation if a supervisor reads the emails and bases discipline on them.
3. False. When a complaint is filed, emails on company computers are considered evidence, and can be obtained legally by an employee who’s filing suit. Think of it this way: The emails are no different from documents sitting in company file drawers.