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Can I expect any privacy at work?

When you work for an employer, there is often confusion about exactly how much privacy you can expect while at your job. Most commonly, employees face issues of privacy involving their communications with others and their employee's right to monitor those communications. Although your employer does retain broad rights to monitor your communication, these rights do have limits. Unfortunately, many employers do not recognize or abide by these limits.

If you use a phone to make a personal call at work, you do have some privacy protection under the Electronics Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which generally limits an employer to monitoring personal calls only if you know that they are doing so and consent to it. In some cases, this may apply to calls made from phones on the worksite itself. This is far more difficult to parse when a personal call is made on a mobile device owned by the employer.

In contrast, very few protections exist for email communication and internet usage. In broad strokes, you cannot maintain an expectation of privacy in emails that you send using a employer's computer or mobile device, or internet usage on an employer's computer or mobile device. In fact, it is generally wise to assume that all of your communications and internet usage on an employer computer are actively monitored.

If you believe that your privacy has been legitimately violated by your employer, do not hesitate to reach out to an experienced attorney. With guidance from a legal professional, you can more effectively examine the nuances of your situation and the applicable privacy laws to form a strategy to defend your rights from employer overreach.

Source: Findlaw, "Privacy in the Workplace: Overview," accessed May 19, 2017

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