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No expectation of privacy on work PCs

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Q.  An employee recently complained that she had received pornographic e-mail messages and links to X-rated web sites from some of her co-workers. I want to review these messages — and other messages these guys have sent — to figure out exactly how large a problem I’m facing. Can I do this?

A. It’s a good idea to have a computer policy that states that employees have no expectation of privacy in their Internet usage or e-mails. Even if you don’t have a policy, you should be able to review e-mails that have been sent or received on your company’s information systems — which are your company’s property — as long as you have a legitimate business reason. Here there is a legitimate reason because some of your employees may be engaging in sexual harassment, and you have a duty to investigate the employee’s complaint.

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