Can My Employer Legally Monitor My Emails at Work?

man searching laptop

You must know better than to share personal information, unrelated to work, in your work emails. You should take this extra precaution because you never know who has access to these messages. This is especially true if such guidelines were made unclear in your employee handbook. Read on to discover whether your employer is legally allowed to monitor your work emails and Internet usage and how a seasoned New York employee rights lawyer at Bell Law Group can protect your safety.

Can my employer legally monitor my emails in New York State?

Recently, New York State law enforced that employers are required to give prior written or electronic notice upon hiring to all employees who are subject to email monitoring. Of note, such monitoring may extend to phone conversation or transmission, Internet access or usage, and more. With this, employers must obtain an acknowledgment from new employees, either in writing or electronically, regarding the possibility of electronic monitoring.

As far as informing existing employees goes, employers must post the notice of electronic monitoring in a conspicuous location, readily available for viewing, in the workplace. That said, if an employer fails to promptly inform their employees about such monitoring, The New York State Office of the Attorney General may impose the following fines:

  • First offense: $500 fine.
  • Second offense: $1,000 fine.
  • Third offense and subsequent offenses: $3,000 fine.

What are the exceptions to this law?

Before you conclude that your employer is illegally monitoring your emails, and ultimately decide to pursue legal action, you must understand that there are exceptions to this law. In other words, this law does not apply to the following processes:

  • Processes that are designed to manage the type or volume of incoming or outgoing emails.
  • Processes that are not targeted to monitor or intercept emails of a particular employee.
  • Processes that are performed solely for computer system maintenance and protection.

What’s more, an employer is not necessarily required to disclose such policies in their employee handbook. However, they must not refuse an explanation upon your request.

What should I do if my employer is illegally monitoring me at work?

Once you confirm that you are being illegally monitored at work by your employer, then you may file a claim against them. For your claim, you may make one of the following arguments:

  • You were a new employee who never signed a notice regarding your employer’s monitoring of your email exchanges before onboarding.
  • You were an existing employee who never saw a notice regarding your employer’s monitoring of your email exchanges posted in your workplace.

In the end, you must schedule an initial consultation with a competent New York employee rights lawyer as soon as possible. Our team at Bell Law Group will be anticipating your phone call.

Get Your Free Consultation