Er… Can My Boss Read My E-mail?

Research has found that technologically savvy people usually prefer to communicate through written texts rather than orally. This may be why many of us find ourselves shooting over an e-mail rather than picking up a phone. And why not? It’s easier, quicker, and more convenient. And you can avoid the awkward conversation about how your buddy’s girlfriend killed his cat.

But the next time you are about to hit the alluring “send” button, consider this —  who is reading your e-mails?

Regardless of how careful you are about e-mail privacy, your employer could be accessing your e-mails anytime. According to a survey conducted by the American Management Association, more than half of the corresponding companies admitted to monitoring employees email. This may sound wrong, unfair, and unethical to you, but employers have reasons for doing this. For example, because an e-mail can be considered an electronic document that employers may have to hand over if they’re sued, employers may monitor e-mails to basically protect themselves from liability.

Some instances that an employer can check an employee’s email are:

  • If a company has let the employee know that email is not private;
  • If your employer believes you are misusing (misusing can range from conducting illegal activities, violating company policy, or even using e-mail for personal use during company time) company email;
  • You use a company assigned e-mail address;
  • You send or receive any e-mail containing business transactions;

Don’t lose hope though, not all your privacy rights have been thrown out of the window just yet. Employers cannot check an employee’s e-mail if an employee had a private e-mail address that is not used on company time and not on company property.

Employees do have rights with regard to privacy; however, courts will often rule in favor of an employer when it comes to email privacy. To be on the safe side, you can (and probably should) inquire as to the company’s policy regarding e-mail privacy. This way, if you need to assert a right to privacy, at least you will be well-informed. In the end, it is important to remember that the simplest way to avoid any issues with your e-mail is to use company e-mail and company property (i.e. your work-PC) strictly for work transactions.

Leave a Reply