The European Court of Human Rights has confirmed that it is fair for an employer to dismiss an employee for private internet use at work, contrary to the employer’s internal rules and procedures.
In the case of Barbulescu v Romania, an employee had sent private messages to friends and family relating to personal matters through a work-related Yahoo messaging account. The employer had monitored these and had then used them as the basis for the dismissal of the employee.
The employee had taken the case to the European Court of Human Rights stating that this had broken his right to privacy, but the court stated that this was not the case and such monitoring of personal messages on a work-related internet messaging account did not break that right to privacy.
This ruling does not give employers the right to “snoop” on employees’ personal emails. The court was very clear that it did not overrule previous case law which stated that employees are entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy and, of course, there is still the UK legislation under the Data Protection Act and the Regulation Investigatory Powers Act which place important limitations on employers’ powers to monitor their employees’ communications.
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