privacy at work

Can My Employer Monitor My Computer?

Can My Employer Monitor My Computer?  Anything you do on your work computer is subject to monitoring. The same applies to your phone, PDA and other devices. This may even apply to your personal, non-work accounts and devices, if the data is transmitted over your employer’s network. Monitoring employee computer usage is a way of life in the twenty first century. Understand your rights and conduct yourself accordingly.  Call us - we are here to help.

If you hate your job, call us, we can help!

Can My Employer Monitor My Computer – Who Is Watching?

Your employer is watching. A 2007 survey by the American Management Association shows that two-thirds of employers monitor employee Internet access, while nearly half review files stored on their computers. Your employer may not be watching you every minute of every day, but what you do on your devices is backed up and can be searched. Employers can also screen for certain words, or watch for certain websites.

Can My Employer Monitor My Computer – What Can They See?

Your employer can monitor just about anything that comes in and out of work devices and over its network. This includes, but is not limited to, internet usage, downloads, files stored, anything displayed on screen, time on the computer, keystrokes, what websites are visited and for how long, words used, emails sent, received and stored, instant messaging and chatting. Your employer can also review deleted emails and files. If you are using a company phone, the employer may also monitor the call, voicemail and text messages. So when you sit at your computer, you may as well imagine that your boss is looking over your shoulder.

Can My Employer Monitor My Computer - Company Owned Versus Personal

If your employer owns the equipment, it can look at nearly anything stored on the equipment. Even if the information is private. Even if the information is unrelated to work. If the equipment is yours, your employer cannot access information on that equipment without a court order. However, if you transmit data over the employer’s network, the employer may have access to –and therefore be able to review – this data. If you must make private communications, consider using your personal cellular network. But if you use the company network, wi-fi, etc. do not expect privacy.

Can My Employer Monitor My Computer - Personal E-Mail Accounts

Your e-mail account may be personal, but your employer’s network is not. By sending/receiving emails over your employer’s network, you are giving up your expectation of privacy.

Can My Employer Monitor My Computer – Can This Get Me Fired?

Of course! That is why it is so important that you understand that you are being watched. Indeed, a recent survey by the American Management Association found that 30% of managers have terminated employees for internet misuse (28% for e-mail misuse).


There are some instances where certain kinds of computer usage – even if the computer and/or network belong to the employer are protected.

  1. Unionized employees: Unions can negotiate with respect to electronic monitoring. Union employees also have the right to fight discipline imposed in connection with electronic monitoring.

  2. Concerted activity: Your employer may not fire you if you are engaging in what is known as “concerted activity.” If you have been fired or disciplined for complaining about your working conditions to other coworkers using e-mail, or for using your work computer for union organizing activities, this may violate the National Labor Relations Act.

  3. Retaliation. If you are fired for writing emails about something at work that’s illegal (discrimination, breaking wage laws, etc) that you’re trying to stop, you may have protection under anti-retaliation or whistleblower laws.

Can My Employer Monitor My Computer – What is the Law?

Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. This law prohibits unauthorized “interception” of electronic communications (e.g. telephone, email and computer use). But three exceptions to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act allow employers to have nearly unfettered access to employees’ electronic communications.

  • Business Exception: An employer may monitor employee use of its own systems for “legitimate business needs.” This includes improving customer service, preventing harassment and making sure that people are working.

  • Consent to Monitoring: If one party to the communication consents to the monitoring, then monitoring is permitted. The requirement of “consent” is met even if the employer is the only one that consents. Thus, an employer is simply required to give advance notice of its policy, but it does not need the employee’s consent. The employee’s consent is implied from the fact that they learned about the policy and decided to keep working there.

  • Employer Owned Systems: The owner of the email, IM and phone message systems is allowed to access electronic communications.

  Can My Employer Monitor My Computer – I WANT OUT!

Are you looking for another job?  Want to get out of your current job, but get a soft landing on your way out?  Concerned about being monitored, maybe about a non-compete or non-solicit?  Or do you want to try to get severance on your way out of the company?  We can help.  You're on a law firm's website, why not call and get some advice.  We can help you figure out how to best position yourself to leave - we can advise you about the parameters (legal and practical) of your non-competition or non-solicitation agreement.  We may even be able to get you some money on your way out the door by way of a severance agreement.  Give us a call today.  646-524-6001.

Can My Employer Monitor My Computer – What Should I Do?

You should contact an employment lawyer!  We can help you work out a solution.  We offer transparent pricing and can usually do initial employment assessments -where we would go through your entire employment situation with you and explore all options - for low, flat fees.

Beyond that, the answer is simple – don’t be stupid. Don’t look at pornography at work. Don’t send disparaging, racist, sexist or otherwise inappropriate emails. Keep your web content appropriate. If you think that you should not be on a certain website or transmitting/receiving certain information, don’t do it.  If you must keep something private from your company, do it on your persona l equipment, over your personal network. Do it from home. Don’t be reckless. It can cost you your job.

Questions? Contact an employment lawyer. We can help.  Call now.