If you are either forming your own business or if you already have an established business, you may have questions about employee privacy. A few weeks ago, we posted a blog discussion about whether it is advisable to use a personal email address for business purposes. We noted that it is generally inadvisable for several reasons. But what about your employees’ email accounts? How should you be interacting with these accounts in ways that respect your employees’ privacy and help you to maintain your business priorities?

An attorney experienced in business and commercial law should be able to answer any specific questions you have concerning employee privacy and employee email accounts. While you are preparing to meet with your attorney in order to ask your specific questions, you may wish to keep these general tips in mind.

First, understand that some federal and state laws may specifically regulate your ability to monitor employee email accounts. Although work accounts seem like your property, many employee email exchanges are protected as free speech. You may therefore be restricted in the ways that you can monitor your employees’ email accounts on a regular basis. However, a compelling and specific concern may allow you to lawfully monitor specific exchanges.

Second, an attorney can help you to construct a privacy policy in accordance with current laws that will allow you to place your employees on notice about certain monitoring rights that you may retain. Giving employees this kind of notice can help you to avoid privacy-related liability in certain circumstances.

Source: Findlaw Free Enterprise, “Work Email: Balancing Privacy and the Right to Speak,” Christopher Coble, March 27, 2015