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Warner Goodman weighs in on employers' ability to monitor private messages

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Employees across the country are today warned to reconsider using their employer’s communications systems and their working time to send personal messages after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that companies could monitor workers’ communications online.

Howard Robson, Partner in the Employment department, says: “It is important for employees to maintain a professional use of social media and email at work. Employers should have in place a clear policy outlining acceptable use of IT resources, social media and communications systems, and the repercussions for failing to comply with the relevant rules and prohibitions. Such a policy might be incorporated into an employee handbook or set out in a stand-alone policy document.

The case concerned a Romanian engineer who was dismissed for using his employer’s Internet for the purposes of communicating with his fiancée and brother via Yahoo Messenger during working hours. The employee argued that his employer’s conduct had disproportionately infringed upon his right to respect for private and family life, the home and correspondence. The court ruled that it was not “unreasonable that an employer would want to verify that employees were completing their professional tasks during working hours.” It found that the employer’s monitoring of the engineer’s communications pursuant to workplace rules and regulations had been reasonable in the context of disciplinary proceedings.


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