« Back

Court of Strasburg on Privacy: “Green light on monitoring employees’ emails” (Affari Italiani, 13 January 2016)

Ruling from the European Court of Human Rights: “A private company is not in violation of employees’ privacy when it monitors their communications on company accounts” Dismissal justified if …
Goodbye privacy, at least on company accounts. A ruling from the European court of human rights in Strasburg, which is not an institution of the European Union, has established that “a private company is not in violation of employees’ privacy when it monitors their communications on company accounts”. Thus a dismissal is justified if these accounts are used for personal or private purposes.
The Court’s ruling was based on an appeal submitted by a Romanian citizen. The national courts held that his dismissal should be declared invalid because it violated his right to privacy. The man was dismissed when his employer discovered that he was using Yahoo messaging registered to the company to correspond with his fiancée and brother, in violation of the company policy. However, the Strasbourg judges held that the Romanian justice had reached a fair balance between the employee’s right to privacy and the interests of his employer.
“It is not unreasonable that a company would want to verify that employees were completing their professional tasks during working hours,” the Court of Strasbourg wrote. Moreover, it observed that access to the company’s Yahoo messaging by the employer was performed in the conviction that it only contained professional communication and that the contents of the private communications were not used in the court to legitimise the dismissal. Conclusion: be careful when using email addresses of your workstation.

We received it and published

“A lot of fuss over nothing,” commented Vittorio De Luca from the law firm De Luca & Partners regarding the ruling from the European court of justice of 12 January 2016 on the dismissal of a Romanian engineer who used the messaging system in his office to communicate with his fiancée and brother. The email account assigned to an employee to perform his job had a personal nature, but such personal nature does not mean it is private – De Luca continued, – This account represents a work instrument. Obviously, it is necessary to carefully consider the needs for orderly job performance with the prevention of useless intrusions into the personal life of workers, as well as violations regarding confidential correspondence. And that is what the Court of Justice did with its sentence of last 12 January by considering the dismissal lodged against the employee lawful who had used the company instrument, i.e. the company account, for private purposes, sending messages of a personal nature to his family members. Moreover, the Privacy Authority in Italy with its 2007 Guidelines for using email and Internet regulated the issue putting the burden of regulating office information technology instruments on the employer through a company policy and establishing the procedures and conditions for the employer to check email”.

Affari Italiani