Right to Privacy at Your Desk in Virginia

I just love true or false quizzes. Seriously. LOVE. THEM. So here is one for a spring Monday afternoon:

POP QUIZ

1. You have a right to privacy at work. Which protects your personal email if accessed on company phone / computer / etc.

TRUE OR FALSE

ANSWER: FALSE

2. You have a right to access personal information at work during work time on your phone / computer / email etc.

TRUE OR FALSE

ANSWER: TRUE MAYBE depending on company policy but when you do it’s not personal anymore.

3. If you are fired for sending a personal email and your boss somehow logs on, reads your email and fires you, you have a lawsuit against your boss.

TRUE or FALSE.

ANSWER: FALSE

So what should you do?

Newsflash: company computer means you have no right to privacy. Same with phone. Or handlheld. Or iPhone, or iPad etc. And when you turn these lovely technologies back in and your ex boss reads your personal email (because you didn’t change your password, etc) there is almost nothing you can do about it.

So be smart.

I would encourage you to do the following:

  • don’t use work computer / phone etc. for personal emails, texts, communications
  • expect no privacy on these devices
  • assume that when you leave your job, all of your work emails will be read by your ex-boss and maybe just maybe your personal ones as well
  • And expect that these emails will be used against you to build a case for (a) breach of contract; (b) breach of fiduciary duty, etc.
  • And if you do work on your personal at home computer – and you save work info on that, you may need some help in deleting that info with ex-boss’ permission so it is NOT deemed destruction of evidence

So. In sum, here it is. You have no legal expectation of privacy at work, especially in Virginia. What you say and or do will be used against you when you leave. So be smart. Use your brain. Don’t take their information. Don’t email yourself anything and don’t expect any privacy, because you have none.

Lauren Ellerman

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.