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Monitoring Employee E-mail, Text Messages and Internet Use

An issue that seems to come up weekly in my practice is whether employers may monitor employee e-mail, text messages and internet use. Here is a nice article on the topic from Law.com.

As noted in the article, this issue really comes down to having an appropriate policy in place that eliminates any reasonable expectation of privacy arising from the use of company owned devices and networks. Here is the takeaway:

[T]he policy should contain:

  • specific definitions of the work devices and messages that are covered by the policy — for example, work-issued computers, BlackBerrys, and cell phones;
  • a provision addressing whether an employee is permitted to use work devices for personal use; and the extent to which that use is allowed;
  • a provision informing employees that the employer may monitor and log all work devices and accounts;
  • a provision informing employees that the employer may access and search work devices and accounts, and that employees have no expectation of confidentiality or privacy in messages sent over those devices;
  • a provision allowing for disciplinary action if the policy is violated;
  • a form for employees to sign acknowledging receipt of the policy.

I agree with all of these and I might add a statement that the policy covers monitoring of any accounts or sites accessed on company devices, even if those sites or accounts are password protected.

Remember, these are only general guidelines — specific questions should be directed to a qualified employment attorney.

Questions or comments? You'll find a link to my email address at the CONTACT line below.

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