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Employee online chats can be monitored during work hours, rules EU court

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), in a landmark decision, has ruled that employee online chats can be monitored during work hours. The Court made its decision regarding a case of a Romanian engineer who filed a lawsuit against his employer because he was fired from work in 2007 after the employer discovered he was using online chats from Yahoo Messenger against company policy to contact his brother and fiancée. The employer had forbidden the use of Yahoo Messenger on its own computers for personal online chats, so the employer fired the engineer 9 years ago.

In turn, the engineer filed a lawsuit in European Court against his employer, stating that the employer infringed upon his personal right to privacy. The ECHR stated in its decision that online chats that violate company policy have no inherent right to privacy: it was not “unreasonable that an employer would want to verify that employees were completing their professional tasks during working hours,” and the employer’s discovery of the Romanian engineers personal chats “proved that he had used the company’s computer for his own private purposes during work hours.” The company defended its actions, saying that it believed that it would find professional company emails and discussions when it accessed the engineer’s own Messenger data.

In short, employees in the EU can prepare to have their employers check up on them if they’re using employer resources during work hours. In short, if you don’t want to be fired from your job, leave the online chats on company computers for professional talk only – and use your own smartphone or personal computer for personal purposes.

Renee Biana

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