Many people, like our former Secretary of State, consider their work e-mail as their own private lifeline to the outside world. Crude jokes, funny stories about your bosses or put-downs of minorities are exchanged. However, doing so can get you fired because your emails are not private. Your employer can read them and use them against you in any disciplinary proceedings.
A federal law, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, prohibits the interception of email communications and accessing stored emails without authorization. Unfortunately, these apparent protections are illusory for employees. The courts have very narrowly interpreted the statute. In the first instance, they have interpreted “interception” as being the simultaneous reading of an e-mail as it is being sent. Reading an email already transmitted does not qualify. As for stored emails, the law allows for searches by communication service providers. If your email is stored on your employer's email server, you are out of luck. Generally, the courts have also held that employees have no reasonable expectation of privacy in their work computers.
Do not use your work computers for private communications. Gmail and other servers are free and most of us have smart phone where we can read our emails and texts. Don't be another Hilary Clinton.
Kim Steven Juhase, ESQ.
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