E-mail is considered the fastest-growing form of electronic
communication in the workplace. But despite the great benefit
e-mail offers businesses, it creates productivity and liability
issues concerning workplace privacy.
For example, employee misuse of a corporate e-mail system for
personal purposes wastes company time. In addition, allowing
employees unfettered personal use of e-mail might lead to a
sexual-discrimination lawsuit against the employer in which
sexually harassing messages are key evidence. This potential
liability should motivate you to ensure your e-mail system is not
being abused. To do this, you must be mindful of the
constitutional, statutory and common-law origins of privacy
protection for employees, as well as applicable case law that has
explored privacy issues in the workplace, including e-mail
monitoring. Currently, there are no clear legal guidelines with
respect to these issues.
The federal statute that addresses the legality of intercepting
and monitoring e-mail communications is Title III of the Omnibus
Crime Control and Safe Street Act of 1968, commonly known as the
federal wiretapping statute, which was amended in 1986 to
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