Employers can fire staff due to private communication

Employee privacy rights

On January 12th, 2016 the European Court of Human Rights judged that a company could check his employee’s private correspondence.

In 2007 a Romanian engineer was fired for using Yahoo Messenger to chat with his brother and fiancée. At the same time, company policy clearly prohibited to use this resource for private purpose during office hours.

The engineer argued in (ECHR) that his employer had violated his human right to correspond confidentially, but this argument was rejected. The Court ruled that the company had the right to control his worker’s communication at work.

The court mentioned the following: firstly, that it was reasonable for any employer “to verify that employees were completing their professional tasks during working hours”; secondly, that the company did not intend to violate employee’s privacy rights, but to access messages “in the belief they contained professional communications”.

Transcripts of the engineer’s communication were used in court to prove that “he had used company’s computer for his own private purposes during working hours”. Romania’s courts allowed that, and Europe’s top rights court defended their decision.
Where is a “fair balance” between company’s goals and respecting employee’s privacy? Romania’s court believes that just withholding the people’s names involved in private correspondence is enough.

From now on employees have to be very careful with private communication from work, because their companies can track it and use against them.
Countries that have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights must follow ECHR’s judgements.