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Jan 20 '14 74 Last Comment
Saint in the City
Jan 22, 14 4:56 pm

^ And, therefore, gun owners.   Er...wha?

Volunteer
Jan 22, 14 5:03 pm

Did not mean to derail the thread, only to point out that all our rights are being usurped by business and government with only that barest fig-leaf of an excuse (if that).

stone
Jan 22, 14 5:24 pm

I'm sorry - but I still don't understand how an employer having the legal authority to examine - when necessary - all files and messages stored on computer and communication systems paid for by the company constitutes "usurpation of employee rights" ?

If you don't want your employer having access to your files and communications, simply don't use company equipment and company time for those purposes.  Why is that controversial or hard to understand ?

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Jan 22, 14 5:30 pm

What rights? The constitution does not apply with 100 miles of the border. That covers about 2/3 of the US population: New York, D.C., Boston, Raleigh, all of Florida, L.A., San Francisco, San Diego, Portland (both!), Seattle, Detroit, Naw'leans, Houston, San Antonio, etc. as well as all the suburbs in-between.

Volunteer
Jan 22, 14 5:44 pm

Well, the company pays for the women's restroom also. Guess the hottie secretaries have no expectation of privacy either?

stone
Jan 22, 14 5:48 pm

@Volunteer: If the "hottie secretaries" are in there smoking pot, no - I don't think they do have an unrestricted expectation of privacy.

curtkram
Jan 22, 14 5:49 pm

your rights to guns are being usurped because people are using guns to slaughter too many kids in schools and movie theaters.  fig-leaf excuses are sometimes made up by to try and present their opponent's arguments as illegitimate.  the fig-leaf excuses are not typically brought up by the proponents of gun control.

how would an employer know where to draw the line between "when necessary" and "when being a prick?"  i don't think they do know where to draw that line.  to become an employer, there isn't any sort of barrier, such as a lawyer passing the bar or a judge passing the bar and being appointed/elected or a police officer going through training.  what makes you think a person is even remotely competent just because they are an employer?  if you're an employer, what makes you think you're even remotely competent to make such distinctions?  people who are complete morons can become employers.  this has been proven many times.

and again, your company did not pay for the internet.  your company pays for one of many gates to access the internet.  what you do on the internet is not owned by your employer.  they only pay for the gate, and they don't even own that.  things can happen on the internet at different times, from different places.  the internet is not stuck to a certain time and place the way a land line might be.  in the case of the OP, the employer chose to access an employee's personal correspondence that occurred at times that included non-work hours and from locations that included ISPs other than those payed for by the employer.

employers do not own their employees.  whether you check email or accept a person call on company time or not, the employer should not get carte-blanche access to everything that employee does.  just because an employer might have the right to their stuff, they shouldn't get access to everything.  why is that hard to understand?  or do you really not understand how the internet works?  it's different than a blueprint.

when you ask "Why is that controversial or hard to understand ?" i honestly don't think you're too stupid to understand the case that's been presented earlier in this thread, but if so let me know and i'll try to dumb it down further.  otherwise, my assumption is that you're pretending that giving an employer that much power over others is some sort of obvious solution, possibly because you're an employer yourself and you would like that kind of control over other people.  if that's the case, i assume you're employees don't think you should have the power to access their personal lives like that.

being an employer does not make you special.  you don't get some great entitlement or special privelage to set you apart.  you still have to work, and often times you have to work harder than everyone else because you're responsible for more than everyone else.

curtkram
Jan 22, 14 5:52 pm

wow, so if a hottie is smoking pot, you think an employer is entitled to watch them pee?

where else do you draw the line?  if they smoke a cigarette do you get to watch them?  how about if they don't meet your company dress code?  if they wear a skirt you don't like, you get watch them on the toilet?  if they wear a skirt you do like you get watch them?

that's fucked up stone.  i hope you don't believe that.

quizzical
Jan 22, 14 5:54 pm

This link takes you to an interesting article, published by the American Bar Association regarding "What Are the Limits of Employee Privacy?"

http://www.americanbar.org/publications/gp_solo/2012/november_december2012privacyandconfidentiality/what_are_limits_employee_privacy.html

tint
Jan 22, 14 5:55 pm

How were the e-mails read? Were screen shots taken or did they get the password and log in to get access that way? 

quizzical
Jan 22, 14 5:59 pm

Curt - I think you misunderstand what Stone is saying. 

I don't think he is suggesting total unrestricted surveillance. However, think he's suggesting that if an employer has a reasonable belief that a law or a company policy is, or has been, violated then that company should have the right to investigate that violation - including reading personal e-mail placed on the company's system - or entering the ladies room (presumably to be done by another female employee).

Saint in the City
Jan 22, 14 5:59 pm

Stone -- I think you're getting a little off track.

My friend was not doing anything comparable to smoking pot that would justify an employer in reading his emails -- he, like many of us, opens his gmail in the background and leaves it there so he can monitor any events / emergencies with his wife and kids.  In your world, that is apparently adequate justification since it's legal for the employer to do so.  I'd say you're wrong.    

Read what Donna S. wrote to help you clarify.

"The big difference for me is between ethics and legality: In my opinion, if I use the firm computer to check my gmail, it would be unethical and immoral for my boss to then get IT to go into that stream of info and read what I've emailed to my husband, or banker, or doctor, or whatever.  Absolutely unethical for them to access it for fun, or out of curiosity. But I'm pretty sure it's legal, even if it is unethical, especially *if* they are concerned you are misusing firm resources aka stealing. And I think it's definitely unethical for me to use firm resources for personal benefit, even, on some level, just to check my gmail. I do it anyway, even though I think it's not really right."

curtkram
Jan 22, 14 6:00 pm

i suppose we should just trust our employers know what's best, because they're smart like stone

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/05/15/the-iphone-app-your-boss-may-be-using-to-take-upskirt-photos-of-you/

curtkram
Jan 22, 14 6:55 pm

i know all other questions i posed will be ignored, but try to answer this one truthfully.  why do you think you're entitled to that kind of power of another human being?

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Jan 22, 14 9:29 pm

curt, can I flip that on you and ask why do you think an employee is entitled to use their employer's equipment for personal use?

The personal phone call example is interesting and slightly different from the internet. Most of us would think that using the office phone system to call a doctor or spouse isn't a problem, most employers probably agree, but many places of employment absolutely restrict employees from using the phone to place personal calls. When we get into white collar work those restrictions start to become blurry.

Something similar would be drug/alcohol use on the job.  Clearly it's your body, you can ingest what you want, but I think there are very serious and common reasons not to allow someone to come to work blotto.

JsBach
Jan 22, 14 11:47 pm

 There are to sides to an ethical question like emails at work and who reads them.

Employers in the modern age have concerns about what goes on in the workplace. In the employee manuals there is usually something covering both phone calls, emails, and internet usage.  You are paid to work. Things have loosened up over the years where most companies aren't forcing you to grind for 8 hours a day with no relief. Some employees take advantage of this laxness and abuse the privilege and spend lots of time on the phone, browsing the web, and who knows what else. Besides just the lack of productivity, internet bandwidth costs money. When you are talking 50 people all using the internet, it's not the same as home use for one person, it costs the company.

I am pretty sure most employers don't spend much time spying on their employees. There is usually a trust factor, where if you are getting your work done and no one complains, then no one is going to ask questions. Again it is written policy about what you can and cannot do, but most people give some leeway. I do think it is unethical, and downright sleazy to look at an email between a man and wife, that seems to be abusing the rights by an employer. But I can't see anything illegal about it if it was done on company property. 

 It is somewhat unethical for the employee to use company property for personal business, it is somewhat unethical for an employer to snoop without just cause. In my opinion it is more about common sense. I know that my employer discourages using company property for personal use, and that the written policy is that they can snoop. So I don't use work computers for personal use. I would however be wary of an employer who did actually snoop. Your friend chose to quit, and maybe he was justified. But the lesson should be learned that you should follow the rules and expect them to be enforced, as distasteful as they may be.

curtkram
Jan 23, 14 2:08 pm

so, for what it's worth i think an employee using a computer at work for personal purposes, such as commenting on archinect or reading and replying to an email or whatever, is irrelevant.  using a work computer for outside jobs or some other more significant purpose might be different.

i'm hired to do a job.  if i'm not doing that job because i'm surfing the web or whatever instead, my employer can fire me.  that's the same tool my employer has if i don't do my job because i'm incompetent, or reading a book, or just an all around asshole.  they don't need to get into my personal email account to do that.  if i do whatever it is need to do to get my job done, but also check email or post on archinect, my boss might want to keep me around. 

my employer and i both free men.  we're regulated by the same laws and government.  being an employer does not make my boss some sort of upper nobility, at east not in america.  there is not a separate code of law for those of us who work for a living.  if my employer has a right to snoop into my personal life, i'm probably going to exercise the same rights and snoop into their personal lives.  the obvious difference is, i'm going to be better at hacking than some old guy that's deluded himself into thinking he lives in mayberry and owns the internet because he paid a monthly fee to an ISP.

distant
Jan 23, 14 2:37 pm

While I can see that this is an emotional issue - especially for employees -- perhaps this narrative below can explain a portion of the employer's perspective:

"Employer Liability for Internet Misuse
Not surprisingly, the expansion of vicarious employer liability for employee actions has been extended to employee Internet usage.  For example, foreseeable acts arising from Internet usage, even if they only benefit the employee, can result in employer liability for damages.  Furthermore, employer knowledge of the conduct may not be required to impose liability.
 
Consider the situation where an employee sends sexually explicit or harassing e-mails to a co-worker.  Although this conduct does not benefit the employer, and does not further any business purpose, the co-worker can bring an action against the employer (e.g., for hostile environment sexual harassment).  Ultimately, the employer may be liable for damages, even if it knew nothing of the e-mail.  Here, the employer provided the opportunity to send the e-mail and may have the duty to monitor the employee’s activities. 
 
Employers can similarly be found liable for unlawful Internet use by employees and/or damage to third parties. 
 
Case Imposes Liability on Employer
In December of 2005, the New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that an employer who was on notice that an employee was using workplace computers to access pornography, possibly child pornography, had a duty to investigate the employee’s activities and to report such activity to the police. Failure to do so can render the employer liable to all third parties who may be affected by the employee’s internet activity.
 
In this case, the employee took nude photographs of his 10 year-old stepdaughter and disseminated the photos from his workplace computer.  The mother of the child sued the employer.  The court held that the employer breached a duty of care to the child and imposed liability on the employer, even though there was no evidence that the employer had knowledge that the employee’s actions posed a threat to the child."

Perhaps some will think that these sorts of activities never take place - especially in the firm where you work. However, once you, or your firm, has been dragged into court over some sort of similar, but seemingly "impossible" act, you might think differently.
 

citizen
Jan 23, 14 4:51 pm

^^^  Uh oh, rational logic derived from experience in the real world.  That can't possibly compete with emotions and self-entitlement.

curtkram
Jan 23, 14 5:54 pm

are you saying the desire to have a life outside my office, free from my boss's prying eyes and interference, is now considered self-entitlement?  whereas an employer feeling the need to access their employee's private email correspondence is not?

since you won't answer 'why do you think you're entitled to that kind of power of another human being?' how about telling me where you draw the line between letting your employees live their own lives and having complete control over them?  remember, if you let them live their own lives even a little bit, they might be free to do something you don't like.

Volunteer
Jan 23, 14 5:54 pm

Well the example is unclear. In the first part of the story employer is described as being "on notice" that the employee may have illicit material. In the later part of the story there was "no evidence" that the employer knew. So which was it?

distant
Jan 23, 14 6:44 pm

@Volunteer: in the December 2005 case, once "notified" of a possible breach of policy, the employer fell under an affirmative obligation to investigate and, if that investigation turned up sufficient evidence, to report the incident to the police for follow-up.

As I interpret the latter part of the narrative, even though the employer was aware of a likelihood that  the employee was using the firm's technology to engage in child pornography, it failed to investigate further. Because of that 'failure to investigate' the employer was held liable for damages to the child's mother, even though the employer had no specific knowledge that the child in question might be in danger. 

Volunteer
Jan 23, 14 8:12 pm

Sounds like the firm should be charged with "aiding and abetting" if they were told of it and did nothing. That is a long way from some pervert in Personnel opening random emails of employees with no cause. Guess the James Clappers of the world will always find work.

Saint in the City
Jan 23, 14 9:34 pm

citizen ^^^  Uh oh, rational logic derived from experience in the real world.  That can't possibly compete with emotions and self-entitlement.

Are you referencing distant's insanely unrelated post?

@Distant -- what the hell?

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