Many employers have policies that limit use of the company’s e-mail system and Internet access to company business. Despite these policies, employees routinely use their employer’s e-mail system and Internet access for personal business, and even for communicating with their attorneys. Courts have ruled that, if the employer has a policy reserving the use of company-owned computers and Internet access for business reasons only, employees have no right to privacy in their e-mail messages.
Some employees are careful not to use the company e-mail system for personal communications, but use company equipment to send messages to their attorneys through personal e-mail accounts such as Yahoo or AmericaOnline. When the employee leaves the company, does the employer have the right to search the employee’s computer or the company’s server for personal messages, especially if they were not sent or received through the company’s e-mail system? And what if some of those messages involved communications between the employee and his private attorney? Normally such communications would be privileged, but if they are on the employer’s computer or e-mail system, has the employee/client waived the privilege?
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