The companies do not have the right to unlimitedly control their employees’ emails, since, although they can control the internal email, they must first notify the worker concerned and they must have a specific reason to do so.
That is what the European Court of Human Rights, based in Strasbourg, established in its judgment last September 4th, which is not subjected to appeal and establishes jurisprudence for all the countries members of the European Union.
According to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, the systematic and indiscriminate monitoring of the professional correspondence made by the companies would mean a “permanent vigilance” and “contrary to human dignity”.
The Court notes that its decision “does not mean that the companies cannot, under certain conditions, control the communications of their employees or that they cannot dismiss them for using the internet for their personal purposes”, but that a “balance is necessary”.
For example, the Court says that the company can ensure the safety and compliance of its regulations “by the implementation of methods less intrusive than the access to the content” of employees’ emails, which should only be used in certain cases.
The Judges of the European Court of Human Rights believe that in an age of constant communication on the web, internal rules “cannot reduce the social private life in the workplace to zero.”
The conditions imposed by the Court on companies are, inter alia, to advise the employee that his emails will be examined and the existence of a specific reason for doing so.
The Court admits that companies should protect themselves against unfair employees who may commit industrial espionage or steal confidential data, or provide access to viruses for unprotected connections, or simply breach internal regulations.
Therefore, a careful proportionality is recommended for every infringement committed by workers, since, for example, an occasional private use of the company’s email cannot deserve more than a warning, since the sanctions or even, disciplinary dismissal, should be reserved only for cases of relapse or for the most serious infringement.