Recent case law suggests that employers may be liable for the conduct of their employees when they use the company’s email and Internet connection. For example, you may be liable for an employee disseminating pornographic material by email because it was generated from your location. Before you slide down a slippery legal slope, you might want to consider a few safeguards.
When you consider updating your office equipment, software and computers, you should also upgrade your employee handbook to include a comprehensive email and Internet use policy. Recent case law suggests that Courts are balancing whether an employee has a reasonable expectation of privacy against the realities of the work place environment.
While it is clear from the Supreme Court that there are no absolutes regarding this issue, it is also apparent that you can reduce an employee’s expectation of privacy by adopting an unambiguous written policy regarding the use of the Internet, email and instant messaging.
Such a policy should be included in your company’s employee handbook, and you should alert your employees that they should have no expectation of privacy relative to email, Internet use or instant messaging. You should warn your employees that you reserve the right to inspect files on the network and their desktops to assure compliance with company policies and procedures.
By: Kevin V. Maltby, Esquire