Can an employer monitor an Employee’s e-mail account?

A decision from European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has cast doubt on whether it is legal for an employer to monitor an employee’s e-mail account.

In the case of Barbulescu v Romania, the Romanian Court ruled that an employer had acted lawfully when it monitored an employee’s Yahoo Account. The account in question was an account which the employee was encouraged to use to speak to customers. Using the messaging service for personal use was a breach of the employment contract Mr Barbulescu had with the company. The employer found, however, that the account was also being used for personal purposes – namely messaging his brother and fiancee. Mr Barbulescu was subsequently dismissed from his role. The Romanian Courts upheld the decision to dismiss and the case was then referred to the ECHR.

After the ECHR initially backed the employer, the ECHR appeal court has now overturned that decision. It considered that the manner in which the communications were monitored did not give adequate protection to the employee’s right to privacy and so was disproportionate and unlawful.

Bearing in mind the latest decision of the ECHR in Barbulescu, employers will need to take a close look at their policies and practices regarding monitoring employees’ communications to ensure that they can comply with the factors set out by the Court in its decision.

If you would like to discuss this decision further and how it might effect your business please do not hesitate to contact us. Anthony Corps Director T: 01904 755222