Q. If we suspect an employee is violating a company policy prohibiting harassment, can we monitor the employee’s e-mails?
A. Under Minnesota law, employees may sue their employers for invasion of privacy under certain circumstances.
Your company should have a written policy that notifies employees that computers and electronic communication systems should be used for business purposes and that improper usage is prohibited.
To minimize the chance of a judge or jury holding that an employee had a reasonable expectation of privacy, the policy should warn employees that computers may be monitored and that discipline may be imposed for the improper use of company computers. The company should also obtain the written consent of its employees to monitoring by requiring the employees to sign an acknowledgment that they received the policy or an employee handbook containing the policy.
Access to employees’ electronic communications should be limited to those employees who have a business reason for monitoring e-mails and who regularly deal with employee discipline issues. Those employees should be trained to treat the information obtained from employee computers as confidential.
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