Can Employers Monitor Their Employees’ Internet Usage or Read Their Emails?

A Video FAQ with M. Thomas Langan II.

Whether an employer can monitor their employees’ internet usage and emails depends on several factors:

  • The first factor is the type of employer. Employees of private companies generally have little to no expectation of privacy; however, employees of government agencies have certain constitutional protections.
  • The second factor is state law. Many states have enacted or have proposed legislation that would require employers to post notices or otherwise inform employees prior to monitoring their computer usage.
  • A third factor is a company’s internal policies and procedures. If the policies prohibit employers from monitoring computer usage, then employees have an increased expectation of privacy; however, if these policies allow employers to monitor, which most do, then an employee’s expectation of privacy decreases.
  • A final factor is the particular purpose for monitoring employees’ usage. If an employer has a legitimate purpose, for example they are monitoring customer satisfaction with emails, then employers are generally able to monitor computer usage.

Overall, most private employers are able to monitor their employees’ internet usage and emails. The best practice is that employers should check state laws, their internal policies and make sure they have a legitimate use prior to monitoring.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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