Employee Electronic Communications Privacy is a Myth in Business and at Work

Surveillance is Permitted – Employers may still monitor their computers and email systems for legitimate management reasons, such as ensuring productivity and preventing email use for purposes of harassment or other conduct that could give rise to employer liability. Employer monitoring will be lawful so long as the employer does not increase its monitoring during a union organizing campaign or focus its monitoring efforts on protected conduct or union activists.

Source:  December 11, 2014 Ruling of the National Labor Relations Board

I’ve been in the HR biz for a while. I remember when email replaced faxing and hard-copy (paper) communications in business and at work. While the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled late last year that an employer’s email system could be used as a “natural gathering place” for union-organizing activities, it clearly did not make an employee’s use of an employer’s email and other electronic systems private.

And yet employees continue to use an employer’s electronic resources as if they were at home, using their own private email, somehow believing that their email messages and use of other employer-owned electronic communication channels at work are private and not visible to their current employer:

  • Employees send obscene pictures and jokes to each other in email, documenting their own workplace policy violations and often, their own terminations for cause;
  • Employees send job applications to other employers from their current work email addresses, and then they wonder why they don’t get a response to their applications;
  • Irate employees send nasty-gram emails to their supervisors and/or co-workers (often cc:ing the whole team and/or company), and wonder why they are not promoted (or retained) at their current company.

How will you ensure that employer email and other electronic communication is utilized effectively to support the success of all, in business and at work?


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