Computer and Internet Use

In Holmes v. Petrovich Development Company, plaintiff Gina Holmes sued her former employer for sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, violation of the right to privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Using her Company computer, Holmes had sent emails to her attorney in which she discussed her employment situation and how she felt she was being treated on account of her pregnancy. The Company later located those emails. At trial, over Holmes’ objections, the defendants were allowed to use those emails as evidence to show Holmes did not suffer severe emotional distress, was only frustrated and annoyed, and filed the action at the urging of her attorney.

Continue Reading “Belongs To The Company” Means Exactly That

Many employers have written policies stating that the computers, blackberries, and other electronic devices are owned by the Company; that the Company reserves the right to review all emails, text messages, and so on that are sent on Company equipment; that employees should have no expectation of privacy or confidentiality when using these resources; and that sending inappropriate, derogatory, harassing, or sexual messages or material is grounds for discipline, including termination of employment.  The Ninth Circuit’s June 18, 2008 decision in Quon v. Arch Wireless Operating and The Ontario Police Department serves as a reminder that employers can inadvertently waive the benefits of such policies.

Continue Reading Employers Need To Be Careful To Avoid Waiving The Protections Of Written Computer And Email Policies

On January 30, 2007, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided the case of United States v. Ziegler (no. 05-30177), an appeal by a man convicted of various child-pornography charges.  In deciding this case, the Zieglar court affirmed the importance of an employer’s policies and practices regarding employees’ right to privacy in their workplace computers and stored electronic data.

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Affirms Importance of Electronic Privacy Policies and Practices

Employers never seem to get a break from having to play the role of parent or "big brother" to their employees in an effort to minimize the risk of liability for their employees’ actions.  Monitoring the conduct of employees on the Internet is no exception and can constitute a large part of employee oversight because of the Internet’s easy accessibility, privacy concerns, and free speech implications.  A recent California court of appeal decision, however, has held that certain employers may be entitled to immunity for the Internet-based conduct of their employees.

Continue Reading California Court Of Appeal Holds Employers Immune For Employee’s “Cyberthreats”