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Alice H
Alice H, Solicitor/Partner
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 2850
Experience:  Partner in national law firm
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My boss has accessed my private e-mail address and read personal

Resolved Question:

My boss has accessed my private e-mail address and read personal and private messages I have sent to a friend. I have sent and received messages whilst in work but not from the business account. Is he allowed to do this and discipline me because of the content which has nothing to do with my job.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Alice H replied 3 years ago.

Alex Hughes :

My name isXXXXX and I'm happy to help with your question today. I need to ask you some preliminary questions to be able to help you.

Alex Hughes :

Were you using a work computer? And why are you being disciplined exactly?

Customer:

Yes it was a company computer terminal. I have been given a written warning without consultation because of the content within the email. It was private messages sent to and received from my fiancé and some where sexually explicit but loving. There was nothing within them of a work related nature. I have a separate business email through which I conduct all my work issues.

Alex Hughes :

OK. The Data Protection Act applies if an employer monitors employees e-mails and computer use; for example to detect crime or excessive private use of e-mails, internet use etc. However, the act requires that workers should be aware of the nature and reason for any monitoring. The failure by your employer to inform you of monitoring and accessing private e-mails appears to be unreasonable. Your next step is to lodge a grievance with your employer challenging the decision. This may result in the written complaint being withdrawn alternatively you may have to take the matter to the Employment Tribunal.

Alex Hughes :

That should say written warning being withdrawn!

Customer:

Even if the written warning is withdrawn my fiancé and I are concerned that he knows a lot of personal detail about our lives and may make comment or use the knowledge to his advantage. The situation is very uncomfortable because its a small office environment and we sit opposite each other all day. I feel I may need to change jobs ultimately.

Alex Hughes :

Any information the employer has obtained cannot be divulged to other parties. If he does disclose information then depending on the circumstances you may have claims for compensation under the Data Protection Act and defamation. Unfortunately, its not possible, for obvious reasons, to 'recover' or 'retrieve' the information he has seen. If you're really concerned about disclosure you should consider preventative steps such as obtaining an injunction - but before going down this route I suggest you lodgr your grievance outlining your concerns.

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