Your employees probably use smart phones and other electronic devices at work. Perhaps your employer even gives such tech tools to your staff.
The use of these devices can expose your organization to legal liability, warns Paul Lopez, an attorney at Tripp Scott, a law firm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He tells us that managers face a tricky balancing act: They must ensure employees don’t misuse their devices without invading workers’ privacy by snooping on their email and text messages.
His interview with Managing People at Work:
MPAW: Should employees expect that personal email they send from work is private?
Lopez: If they’re using a company-supplied computer, no. In addition to a written policy, I’d embed a tagline at the end of all company email that says something like, “This e-mail is generated by a company computer and can be monitored by the company.” Put that reminder on any sent or received email.
MPAW: What if employees want to have a private communication?
Lopez: They should use their personal cell phone.
MPAW: Are employers protected if they draft a clear policy governing use of electronic devices?
Lopez: A written policy is important. But you also must enforce it consistently and not deviate from it. If a manager becomes close to employees and there’s a friendship, the manager might say, “Don’t worry about the policy. We won’t read your email.” Managers must realize that when they say that, they’re speaking on behalf of the company and binding the company.
MPAW: Looking ahead, what legal issues should managers worry about?
Lopez: Texting is becoming an issue. What kind of exposure do employers have when employees are driving and texting and get in an accident? Whether employees are using their own devices or a company-supplied device, the question is whether they’re engaging in company business. Perhaps the boss pressures them to respond to a key customer right away, even while driving. The safest policy is employees should not use their devices for company business while driving.