Keep a Business Eye on E-Workers

Protect Your Business By Telling Your Workers You’re Watching

Over the past 15 years, most work places have seen the introduction of  communications technologies including e-mail, voice messaging, and computers with Internet access. This has given rise to thorny legal issues revolving around the monitoring of employee activities on the job.

On the one hand, employers need to supervise the work of their employees, to retrieve information pertinent to business operations, and to assure the integrity of their electronic communications and information systems against improper (or even unlawful) use or disclosure.

On the other hand, the law clearly recognizes that employees are entitled to a measure of privacy and protection against undue intrusion into their personal information, even in the workplace.

Employers can protect themselves by distributing a workplace policy incorporating the following: Reduce employees’ expectation of privacy by placing them on notice of monitoring. Because state and federal laws protect employee privacy where the employee has a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” it is crucial for an employer that intends to monitor electronic communications to notify employees.

If the company has the ability to retrieve files or messages that employees have deleted from the system, the company may wish to add this to the policy to avoid fostering the notion that deleted information is private.

Reserve the right to access electronic systems. An employer’s policy should expressly reserve the right to enter e-mail, voicemail, and computer files to review, copy, delete, or disclose the contents.

It should be made clear that the employer and its designees will have access to these communications.

Place limitations on employees’ use of and access to e-mail, voice mail, the Internet, and computer systems.


Emma Luevano
Emma Luevano is a regular contributor to on legal issues relevant to small and medium business. She is a partner at the law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP ( who advises and represents management on labor and employment matters, including sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination, public policy violations, wrongful termination, class action wage and hour issues,and retaliation.