Bosses can snoop on workers’ e-mails including personal messages with loved ones during working hours, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in a case brought by a Romanian man fired after his employer spied on his private Yahoo! chats.
“It is not unreasonable for an employer to want to verify that the employees are completing their professional tasks during working hours,” the court in Strasbourg, France, ruled Tuesday.
Bloomberg News reports that while the case dates back to 2007, the ruling comes at a time when governments and courts around the world are grappling with how to balance the right to privacy with the need to protect national security in the wake of Islamist terror attacks such as those in Paris last year. The court’s decision will also certainly guide the European Union’s top tribunal in future cases and rulings, said lawyers.
“This decision is significant for a number of European countries” as it legalizes reliance on private communications to influence workplace decisions, said Michael Burd, joint head of employment at Lewis Silkin in London. “There’s been a very strict division between employers’ ability to look at private stuff and employers’ ability to look at company stuff and this decision will break that down.”
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