Euclid Managers is pleased to expand individual points-of-view on our blog with the following article contributed by a guest, David Lewison, vice president/broker, Colemont Insurance Brokers. If you would like to consider being a guest writer on our blog, contact Marcia.
It is time once again to dispel any myths that your personal activities are completely safe from monitoring by your employer. While many people are focusing on the privacy of their identity, social security number and credit card numbers, your privacy rights are very limited when it comes to your employer’s interests. As you will see, many people wrongly assume that their communications between friends cannot be monitored by their employers.
Most people are aware that their emails and Internet usage can be monitored, but your employer’s ability to monitor reaches beyond your office computer. Recent press involving Detroit Mayor Kilpatrick’s text messaging is enough proof for me. See four quick questions and answers below on this subject.
1) Does the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution protect my privacy rights when an employer wants to look at my personal activities on a company computer? The answer is no.
2) Is my company-provided Blackberry safe from my company’s HR and IT Departments? The answer is no.
3) Are my text messages on company-provided equipment safe from my company’s HR/IT Departments? The answer is maybe not, and the answer turns upon whether the messages are stored by a “remote computing service” or by an “electronic communication service,” which are rather arcane definitions under a federal statute.
4) Does my employee handbook say anything that gives me privacy rights in the use of company-provided equipment? The answer, quite probably, is no.
Sample electronic privacy wording from an Employee Handbook:
Every XYZ employee is responsible for using the electronic mail (E-mail) system [and Voice mail system (collectively “the Communication System”)] properly and in accordance with this policy. Any questions about this policy should be addressed to the Human Resources Department.
The E-mail [or Communication] system is the property of XYZ. It has been provided by XYZ for use in conducting company business. All communications and information transmitted by, received from, or stored in this system are company records and property of XYZ. The E-mail [or Communication] system is to be used for company purposes only. Use of the E-mail [or Communication] system for personal purposes is prohibited.
Employees have no right of personal privacy in any matter stored in, created, received, or sent over the XYZ E-mail [or Communication] system. XYZ, in its discretion as owner of the E-mail system, reserves and may exercise the right to monitor, access, retrieve, and delete any matter stored in, created, received, or sent over the Email [or Communication] system, for any reason and without the permission of any employee, and without notice.
It is always important to keep in mind that all corporate resources are for corporate purposes. If you conduct any personal business using any corporate asset, it can be reviewed by your employer. Although their ability to legally do so may depend entirely on the factual circumstances, employers may also have the capability to track your location using your cell phone or car GPS unit. So, you may want to think twice about calling in sick to spend time at the ball game or local pub.