Whose email is it, anyway?

March 15, 2013 at 7:56 am Leave a comment

imagesCA3FN0ZFWith the proliferation of smart phones in the work place, courts must increasingly wrestle with the issue of how much legally protected privacy employees are entitled to when using company issued smart phones and/or company email accounts.  The issue may seem straightforward, but I got the idea for this blog reading the latest in a string of cases in which employees facing fraud charges argue that conversations they had using email to allegedly facilitate fraudulent activity should not be used as evidence against them.  Basically, the defendants are asking “how about a little privacy here, I’m using the company email.”

The extent of privacy protection afforded to a given employee depends largely on what your policy says and how you enforce it.  In other words, this is not one of those policies you can pull off the Internet, paste into your employee manual and be done.  Here are the questions the New York Courts analyze when examining this issue, and if you keep these questions in mind in not only writing your policy by implementing it on an ongoing basis, you will minimize any confusion that employees might have regarding privacy expectations in the workplace.

  • Does the corporation maintain a policy banning personal or other objectionable use of email?
  • Does the company monitor the use of the employee’s computer or email?
  • Do third parties have a right to access the computer or emails?
  • Did the corporation notify the employee, or was the employee aware, of the use and monitoring policies?

To put this in context, it’s almost always going to be the employee who bring a motion to keep the offending emails out of the trial record.  But who better than a former presumably disgruntled employee to know of defects in the company’s HR practices?  Double check with your HR attorney, but if it was up to me, I would like to be able to answer yes to each of the above questions.  Even if you never end up in a contentious legal dispute, the interplay between business and personal activity is blurring more and more each day as a result of technology.  A consistently implemented, widely understood company policy putting people on notice that their workplace communications are not their own is in everyone’s best interest.

NCUA Approves Alloya Merger

At yesterday’s board meeting, NCUA put out for public comment a proposed regulation intended to clarify regulations related to the fixed asset rules.  This may sound like dry stuff, but I remember hearing from New York State chartered credit unions a few years ago that both they and examiners were confused about what credit unions could and could not do when buying property with an eye toward future expansion.

Also, NCUA approved the merger of CenCorp with Alloya pending a member vote.

Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day and remember it would be awfully tacky to call in sick on Monday, so if you’re going to overdo it, plan ahead and take the day off.

Entry filed under: Compliance, HR, Legal Watch, Regulatory. Tags: , , , .

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Authored By:

Henry Meier, Esq., General Counsel, New York Credit Union Association.

The views Henry expresses are Henry’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Association.

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