Monitoring Workplace Communications
27 September 2017
Barbulescu v Romania
The issue of employers checking the emails of their staff has been subject to case law in the past and it is in the spotlight once more. The latest development has seen a 2016 decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) successfully appealed in favour of the employee.
In 2007, Mr Barbulescu was sacked for sending private messages on the Yahoo account that his employer had asked him to set up for business use. He had been expressly instructed that he was not to use work computers for personal use. The Romanian court and the first tier of the ECHR ruled that his employer had acted lawfully in monitoring these e-mails.
Mr Barbulescu appealed the ruling of the ECHR and the case has been decided in his favour. In handing down the decision, the Court advised that “states should ensure that when an employer takes measures to monitor employees’ communications, these measures are accompanied by adequate and sufficient safeguards against abuse”. Mr Barbulescu had not been told that his communications would be monitored.
This case only serves to highlight the importance of taking proper legal advice when deciding whether to access staff emails or to take formal action as a result of what you have found. Employers who wish to monitor the communications of their employees should ensure that this is expressly stated in any IT and Communications policies or is clearly communicated to their staff via other means.
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