In a recent New Jersey Appellate Division Decision, Stengart vs. Loving Care Agency, Inc., the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, clarified when a company/employer can review and access an employee’s emails when the employee uses company technology to receive emails. Many employees mistakenly believe that personal emails received on a company computer are private. The Stengart case provides guidance on how email and internet policies should be drafted in the company/employee handbook. The law holds that electronic communication policies must be drafted with unambiguous language alerting employees that the employer retains the right to monitor and review emails of the employee for any legitimate business purpose. Although the Stengart Court did find that the company’s electronic communication policy was subject to claims of ambiguity, it is clear that a well-drafted electronic communication policy will properly advise the employee that there will be no expectation of privacy for that employee’s personal emails received on a company computer and that the company may review employee’s emails for any legitimate business purpose. The policy should also advise the employee that use or misuse of company technology for non-business purposes violates company policy and may subject the employee to disciplinary action.
The Stengart Court clarified that a carefully crafted electronic communications policy will allow employees to understand that the employer retains the right to access electronic communications when the employee uses company technology. This well-drafted policy will alert the employee that there is no expectation of email privacy, and will shield the employer from liability for reasonably reviewing an employee’s email on the company technology.