Employee E-Mail Monitoring and Workplace Privacy in the European Perspective
Iustinianus Primus Law Review, Vol.8, 2013
21 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2019
Date Written: 2013
The question of employees’ electronic surveillance has recently drawn considerable attention due to the increased use of information technology in the workplace, and the eventual implications of monitoring operations, with the right to respect private life. It is broadly accepted among European countries that employees should enjoy a certain reasonable expectation of privacy and confidentiality of their communications in their workplace since in the course of their working lives, they might develop relations which extend beyond the professional domain. Given that working activity results from a constant combination of professional tasks with employees’ individual values, it becomes difficult to clearly separate professional actions from those having a personal nature. In this respect, employers should recognize a certain degree of employees’ privacy at the workplace and implement proper organisational and operational measures towards protecting their private sphere, within the work environment.
However, the employees’ right to confidentiality of their communications must be balanced with the legitimate interests of the employer to protect the integrity of its business from the liability that employees’ actions may cause. Some of the main legitimate grounds for applying workers’ email monitoring methods consist of: safeguarding employee productivity from any waste of time dealing with e-mails that are not relevant to his job; protecting the company from potential lawsuits resulting from e-mail misuse such as sexual harassment, bullying or racist comments, or the unlawful downloading of materials; protection of an organization's confidential information, and minimization of malware risks exposed to the company network due to the careless sending and opening of emails. In conclusion, before undertaking any monitoring operation, it is essential for the employer to designate special technical and operational measures, in order to avoid the disclosure of employees or third parties personal information, not necessarily related to the work activity.
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