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Should You Review Employee Emails?

One of the difficult tasks of employers is to balance their own needs with the expectation of their employees' privacy in the workplace. This issue may arise when dealing with employee email. Whether an employer decides to review its employees' email often depends on the reason for doing so and the company's policies regarding this matter. 

Reasons to Review Employee Emails

Employers may have interests that outweigh the preference for employee privacy in the workplace. Some interests that employers may have that trump this preference include:

  • Protecting trade secrets

  • Protecting client and customer relationships

  • Checking communications for compliance

  • Monitoring email for harassing communications

Periodically reviewing employee emails may protect an employer's interests. For example, if an employee is talking to a competitor and sharing proprietary information, the employer may be able to take disciplinary action to curb this behavior before too much information is revealed. Monitoring employee email may also help an employer detect harassing conduct before it rises to a hostile level that could adversely affect the employer and the business.  

Employment Policies

Employers will also likely want to review their existing policies before treading into this territory. Many employment and computer use policies explain that employers are free to monitor communications that go over their servers or that are made through the employer's email system. Monitoring emails may be more complex in today's connected age when many employees use their personal devices after hours. Employment policies may clarify these types of situations. 

A key consideration when determining whether or not to review employee email is whether the employee has a legitimate expectation of privacy in these communications. When policies clearly state that the employer can monitor these communications and employees agree to these terms when using the communication method, miscommunication may be avoided.   

When Policy Violations are Discovered

When an employer discovers that violations of law, such as behavior that is harassing, it triggers their obligation to investigate the situation.  Often, employers often also investigate policy violations that are discovered in monitored email.  The Lynch Law Firm is equipped to help you with investigations that stem from monitoring email and are prepared to work with you on investigations that do not contain a traditional reporting party.

Cite this article: Lynch, N. (2017). Should You Review Employee Emails? Available: