Email and internet-enabled computers are an essential part of the modern-day office. In fact, some employees may rely on internet technology and electronic communication in order to be able to do their jobs at all. Modern technology makes it possible for employers to monitor virtually all of their employees’ online activities, and the law generally allows them to do so. In California, employers are given wide latitude to monitor their employees’ use of company resources, including the way they are using the internet and company email.
The most prudent course of action is for employees to assume that their company email and internet usage are being monitored by their employer. A recent survey conducted by the American Management Association indicates that a 43 percent of respondents monitor their employees’ email. Of these employers, 73 percent used technology to monitor email, and 40 percent actually had an individual read and review employee email. According to the survey, the issues employers are most concerned about in regard to the way employees use the internet include visiting sites with adult-themed material, gaming, social networking, entertainment websites, shopping sites, sports, and external blogs.
Many employees may wonder why employers invest the time and money into monitoring the way that employees use the internet and email. The obvious reason is that employers have a financial interest in their employees’ productivity and that monitoring the way they use the internet keeps employees on task. Additionally, employers who monitor email are likely concerned about legal liability. When an employee writes an email, it generates a business record that may become part of discoverable evidence if litigation is commenced. The AMA survey cited above also indicates that 15 percent of employers have been involved in a lawsuit that arose due to an employee’s email.
Discrimination and Other Employer Actions Based on Internet Surveillance
While it is not against the law for an employer to monitor employees ‘ internet habits, certain actions that an employer takes after obtaining information about an employee may be. For example, if an employer discovers that an employee is homosexual in the course of monitoring his or her emails, and the employer then discriminates against the employee, the discrimination would likely violate California law prohibiting such discrimination. Other types of information that an employer could gather that may be the basis of prohibited workplace discrimination include the following:
An employee’s status as pregnant
The existence of medical conditions
If you believe that you have been the victim of workplace discrimination based on information your employer obtained by monitoring your email or internet usage, you should contact an attorney immediately.
Call a California Employment Law Attorney Today
Actions taken by an employer based on information gathered while monitoring an employee’s internet habits can sometimes give employees a right to sue. The lawyers of the Pershing Square Law Firm are committed to helping employees whose rights have been violated recover their losses. To schedule a free case evaluation with a California employment law attorney, call our office today at 800-696-1206 or send us an email through our online contact form.