Privacy at Work — Can My Boss Do That?

Surprisingly, there are few laws protecting employee privacy. That will no doubt change in the next 20 years (the law is slow to catch up), but in the meantime an employee possesses a limited right to privacy in the workplace. Both the United States Supreme Court (in O’Connor v. Ortega) and the New Jersey Supreme Court (in Stengart v. Loving Care Agency) have ruled that the limits on that privacy are governed by whether the employee has a legitimate “expectation of privacy” and whether an employer’s intrusion on that privacy relates to any “legitimate business interest.” For example, an employer has the right to enforce a policy of reading emails you send and receive at work. But that does not give your employer the right to read emails to your lawyer on a company computer using your personal password-protected email account. An employer can enforce drug testing policies if you work in a safety-sensitive job. Can they search your car or your purse? Can they require you to disclose your Facebook password? Can they monitor your phone calls? That depends on the facts of each case. If you have a question about employee privacy, contact our employment law attorneys to learn about your rights. March 11, 2011 – Castronovo & McKinney – Paul Castronovo