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Is it legal to monitor what an employee is doing on his/her PC during working hours?

Is it legal to monitor what an employee is doing on his/her PC during working hours?

LEGAL DIGEST \ 08.06.2018

Various systems allowing for actions of employees at their workplaces to be monitored have been gaining in popularity of late. This begs the question: how legal is such monitoring? Does it not breach an employee’s rights?

There is well-established court practice in this area.

For instance, a court held it to be lawful when an employee was sacked was after being caught downloading confidential information to removable media and sending the data to his personal email.

The employee argued that he was planning to work with the files from home because of sickness and had no intention to disclose the information. The court held that, because he signed a non-disclosure agreement, the employee violated the ban on the unauthorised copying of documents of the company which constituted the company’s trade secrets. Consequently, the employee was lawfully dismissed.

An employer has the right to monitor employees’ personal correspondence if it is sent from their workplace. This does not violate the employees’ rights, as supported by a number of court judgments.

Heavy use of social networks at work may result in a staffing position being cut. For example, a court held it to be lawful when expert professional’s pay was halved because the results of monitoring showed that he spent most of his working time communicating in VKontakte from his corporate PC.

Therefore, an employer may control, by using any legal means, how its employees fulfil their job duties, including by monitoring how corporate mail and equipment is utilised. The risk of personal correspondence being disclosed lies with an employee, if he/she maintains such correspondence on his/her corporate PC or by using a corporate mailbox.

It is important to note that a company may not use remote wiretapping or remote access to personal mobile devices of an employee. The employer’s rights are limited to the use of software based on an analysis of company’s Internet traffic.

An employee must be notified of working conditions and requirements for labour safety at workplaces; therefore an employer must notify the employee against his/her signature of the possibility of control measures being undertaken.

Specifically, employees must be notified of video and audio surveillance. If such a requirement is violated, this entitles an employee to demand compensation of moral harm through the violation of his/her labour rights, specifically the right to receive accurate and full information regarding labour conditions and labour safety measures.

It is advisable for an employer to draw up a special internal regulation (and for this to be brought to the attention of employees against their signatures), which would regulate the use of devices that monitor an employee’s actions (video surveillance, systems for tracking a user’s activity, etc.)

Acsour recommends that you study the requirements of legislation before installing systems for monitoring actions of employees at their workplaces.