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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Should My Employee Manual Have Facebook or Social Media Policies?

A Video FAQ with M. Thomas Langan II.

The use of social media in the workplace continues to increase. To help protect your business, a good idea may be to adopt social media policies for your company.

The first thing a social media policy should do is define social media. This should include social networking sites, blogs, e-commerce sites, video sharing websites, but also leave the definition open to include future social media platforms.

Second, the policies should follow a general employee code of conduct. Here it should prohibit unlawful conduct, sexual harassment or the disclosure of confidential information on social media platforms.

Third, you should require employees to separate their workplace identity from their personal identity so when employees use social media, they should make it clear when they are representing your company and when they are representing their personal identity.

When drafting these policies, you should make it clear that it shouldn’t be overreaching or in any way hamper certain employee rights. For example, they should not prohibit talking negatively about the company or talking about wages in general as this could implicate several employment laws.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Should My Business Have an Employee Manual?

A Video FAQ with M. Thomas Langan II.

Employee manuals are not required by law, but they can be a good idea for most businesses. An employee manual serves 3 important functions:

  1.  It can protect the employer. If your company is in an at-will state, then an employee manual can make it clear that the relationship between you and your employees is at-will, and, absent any other written agreement, their employment can be terminated at any point.
  2. An employee manual can explain to employees what acceptable workplace behavior is. Here you can explain policies towards sexual harassment, discrimination, tardiness, insubordination, timekeeping, etc., while providing examples where applicable.
  3. An employee manual can explain employee rights under employment laws such as ADA, FMLA, equal employment opportunities, etc.

If  your company chooses to adopt an employee manual two key aspects are to enforce it consistently and update it regularly.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

For more information, Contact Us