Q. Can we legally open all mail delivered to employees at the office? What if it is stamped “confidential,” can we still open it? This is getting to be a problem because our mailroom opens all mail automatically. — S.M., Oregon
A. Unless an employee gives the employer authority to open his or her mail, the employer risks civil and criminal liability under the U.S. Postal Service statute by doing so. (18 U.S.C. § 1702)
If an employer notifies employees that its practice is to open all mail that is addressed to its office, it may have an argument that the employee has no expectation of privacy in his or her mail, but it’s still risky in light of the Postal Service laws.