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Case Study: Monitoring Emails in the Workplace

Monitoring emails in the workplace - Case Study

Thursday 7th of September 2017 12:53


The European Court of Human Rights have ruled that a roman national, Bogdan Bărbulescu, had his rights breached under Article 8 i.e. the right to respect for private life and family life.

Bărbulescu, an engineer for a private company, set up a Yahoo account in his workplace to deal with customer enquiries.  In July 2017 during a routine investigation, the company found Bărbulescu had been emailing his brother and fiancé on personal matters.  Whilst initially denied, Bărbulescu was provided with copies of the email discussions.  Following an investigation Bărbulescu was dismissed for breaching company policies, a matter of gross misconduct.

Bărbulescu’s claim for unfair dismissal was initially dismissed by both local courts and upon appeal in a chamber vote in January 2016.  However, the ECHR’s grand chamber has ruled 11 votes to 6 that there was indeed a violation of Article 8.  They determined the national courts had failed to give sufficient consideration as to whether Bărbulescu had been adequately warned that his messages would be monitored and to what extent.   The judgment also noted the failure to give proper consideration as to whether such intrusive monitoring was necessary at all.

Whilst this case has not over-ruled the use of monitoring within the workplace, it sends out an important message that monitoring must be a proportionate need for achieving a legitimate aim and a blanket policy is not sufficient. Advance warning of potential monitoring, coupled with a robust procedure should assist clubs in being able to monitor the emails of their employees


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