Privacy at Work — Can My Boss Do That?

By Thomas McKinney

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

About the Author
Tom McKinney is an experienced NJ Employment Lawyer in all major areas of labor and employment law, including discrimination, harassment, overtime violations, wage and hour claims, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, LAD, FLSA, and all other employment law claims. Tom is admitted to practice in the States of New Jersey and New York, United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Southern District of New York, District of New Jersey, and United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Prior to forming the firm, Tom practiced at Gibbons P.C. in Newark, NJ. If you have any questions regarding this article, contact Tom here today.