Privacy today is a very important topic among Americans. Legislation proposed a new
law called Notice of Electronic Monitoring Act to protect employees from having their privacy
invaded without their knowledge. This law has still yet to be passed but has been revisited
Without this law employers have the right to access information and
documents created in the workplace without any notification. Electronic monitoring of
employees computers poses problems to the point where many lawsuits are being filed.
In 1990, the lawsuit
Shoars vs. Epson America, Inc.
, Alana Shoars found that her boss was
intercepting e-mails being sent by the employees, after he told her to encourage everyone to use
the e-mail system. Her boss assured it was safe and secured with a password. She protested her
privacy rights, but still was fired because of her position on the matter. She filed a lawsuit and
lost because it was ruled that employees should never have the expectation of privacy.
made to seem that in
the workplace an employee has no right to privacy whether it be in email
or something else.
Another example is, in Smyth v. Pillsbury Co., Michael, Smyth argued that his privacy was
violated after he was discharged from his job.
His employers read several e-mails he had
exchanged with his supervisor. In the emails, among other offensive references, he threatened
to "kill the backstabbing bastards" in sales management. The court ruled that Smyth had "no
reasonable expectation of privacy" on his employer's system, despite the fact that Pillsbury had
repeatedly assured employees that their e-mail was confidential. In addition, the court held that
the company's interest in preventing "inappropriate and unprofessional" conduct outweighed
Smyth's privacy rights.
This is a key point in the discussion.
The privacy that is entitled to Americans, is somewhat
lessened in the workplace. The Fourth Amendment that protects United States citizens from
unreasonable search and seizure, does not protect workers. The FBI are continuously trying to
gain access to email information for security purposes.
However this is much more challenging
an issue, since in a work environment an employee is paid by an employer, as well as using
their systems. This being said, There are much less freedoms under the workplace condition so
email information or even any other types of personal information being monitored can been
seen as acceptable.
The most relevant federal law, the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, prohibits
unauthorized interception of various electronic communications, including e-mail. However,
the law exempts service providers from its provisions, which is commonly interpreted to
include employers who provide e-mail and internet access. The federal bill that would have
required employers at least to notify workers that they were being monitored failed to come to
a vote in 1993, 1995 and 2000.