Yet I hear about people continuing to make this same mistake. I thought I’d better offer a gentle reminder: DO NOT ASSUME ANYTHING ON YOUR WORK COMPUTER OR WORK EMAIL IS PRIVATE!
What sparked my intent to visit this topic was a recent California appellate court decision. The court ruled that even attorney-client confidentiality doesn’t apply when the email is on company servers.
This story was sent to me via Google Reader, in the LifeHacker.com post Your Employer Can Read Your Work Emails, Even to Your Lawyer [Privacy] by Kevin Purdy.
Kevin reported on a recent Wired magazine story – in a 3-0 decision, the Sacramento-based court ruled that a woman sending an email to her attorney, in a matter regarding plans to sue your employer, from your office was akin to “consulting her lawyer in her employer’s conference room, in a loud voice, with the door open, so that any reasonable person would expect that their discussion of her complaints about her employer would be overheard.”
Here’s a link to a PDF of the court’s decision on email privacy at work.
There is a loophole, but as far as I am concerned it’s risky. Wired reports that a New Jersey court found emails sent from a personal, web-based account, like Gmail, were private and confidential, due in part to the warnings and disclaimers on an attorney’s email signatures.
But passwords, notes, photos, etc., that you store on your work network, or work computer, are essentially stored in company property. Your employer was probably pretty careful to let you know that you shouldn’t violate company policies via the company equipment, and you shouldn’t have an expectation of privacy for what you put on the computer at work.
Think about it this way – what if you won a month-long cruise that you had to take right away. Your boss said you could have the time off – but in order to take care of your work, he would be going through every single file and e-mail message on your computer.Would you need a little time to set things straight?
I think even great, honest employees sometimes treat work computers more like home computers. I’m just here to remind you that you shouldn’t!
Thanks for reading,
James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and