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Do employers have rights to monitor their employees’ emails?

| Apr 14, 2021 | Employment Law |

Telecommunications have revolutionized the way that businesses across the world operate. Across Alaska, entities have adopted communications’ tools that allow their employees to work distantly but talk instantly through messaging, email, and chat. Physical distances no longer mean time consuming delays in work production, because messages can be sent with the click of a button.

While technology has made work faster, it has also opened the door to potential abuses by workers. It is not uncommon for workers to use the equipment and time of their employers to transact personal business. The loss of these resources can be detrimental to entities.

It is therefore appropriate for businesses to inquire as to whether they can monitor the technology use of their workers. This post will address the answer to this question, but it is important that readers remember no legal advice is contained herein. Specific guidance on workplace privacy should be directed to employment law attorneys who represent employers.

Monitoring when employees are using workplace equipment

When a worker is at work and using a computer or other device owned by their employer, it is generally acceptable for their employer to monitor their emails. In some businesses, email monitoring is done automatically through established systems that search for personal or illegal content. It is reasonable for businesses to take this approach to protecting their operations.

Monitoring when employees are using their own equipment

The door to privacy concerns may open wider if a worker uses their own computer or device for the transaction of work products. Email monitoring may still be permissible depending on how it is done, but other forms of communication, like phone calls, may not be monitored. In general, a worker must consent to have their phone calls monitored before their employer can do so.

Privacy concerns at work can be difficult for employers to address. Before acting on a privacy matter, it can be important for an employer to contact an employment law attorney for advice and counsel.