A recent case went before the Georgia Court of Appeals that caught my attention. It involved a suit against an employer by female employees of a company. The employer, on hearing that drug deals were occurring in the ladies restroom, installed hidden video cameras to monitor activities. When it was discovered, the female employees filed suit. The case came in front of the Georgia Court of Appeals who ruled that “This type of invasion of privacy involves a prying or intrusion, which would be offensive or objectionable to a reasonable person.” Since this type of monitoring would be considered to most reasonable people, it was considered an invasion of privacy.
The lines of privacy are blurred in employer/employee situations. The employer has certain rights of contract and property that sometimes outweigh the rights of privacy of the employee. Examples might be the right to read all emails, search handbags, or conduct desk searches.
Employees often make the mistake of assuming everything they do on their work computer is private and their own business. The employer owns the computer, however, and therefore has a right to monitor its use. Many a worker has found him- or herself terminated because they forgot this particular fact. Remember, if you do not want your emails read by your employer, do not use your work email account for private email. Even checking your internet-based email from your work computer will open up that door of to your privacy.
The guys in the IT department *do* read your mail, they *do* monitor your Internet surfing, and they *do* remotely scan your system for image files and other information stored on it.