Sending messages to your fiancée? Your boss has a right to read them, according to a new ruling from the European Court of Human Rights.
The Strasbourg-based court recently ruled on a case involving a Romanian engineer who lost his job after using Yahoo! Messenger to communicate with personal contacts, including his fiancée and brother, as well as professional ones. His bosses had initially asked him to install the online messaging app solely for work purposes.
In 2007, he was informed that his online activities had been monitored and that he was being fired for sending personal mesages during work hours. He was presented with a 45-page transcript of his online activities, including the private messages he sent to his fiancée.
The employee then lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights, claiming his rights to privacy had been breached.
However, the Court decided to side with his employer, ruling that it is “not unreasonable that an employer would want to verify that employees were completing their professional tasks during working hours.”
This case looks to have a significant impact on employment law across the EU nations, all of which are bound by legal rulings at Strasbourg. It breaks down the long-established barrier between professional and private communication, the latter of which employers were previously prevented from reading.
However, Tom De Cordier, a lawyer in Brussels, told Bloomberg that employers should be cautious about using the case as a precedent: “Employers should be careful not to draw too general conclusions from this decision. Much of the court’s decision seems to be based on the fact that the employee had claimed that the relevant communications were of a professional nature.”