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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 62517
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor
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I believe that my previous employer was going through my

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I believe that my previous employer was going through my e-mails. Can I find out whether they have? Do I have a right to know whether they have?

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today.

Why do you think that is the case?

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Apologies, I just picked this up.I am a scientist. Female. 41. My field is Cancer Genomics. V Male-dominated. I was given a hard time over 2 years, subsequently I resigned. This was after I was threatened with dismissal if I didn’t sign a settlement agreement that outlined the terms of my leaving. I resigned before they could sack me.On one of the particular meetings where they were trying to create a case against me, I was questioned about using a specific turn of phrase “old boys club” to describe a group of people I work with (including my boss who happens to be the Institute Director). I was accused of using damaging language.I used that phrase in the context of an email discussion I was having with another colleague. They could only know that if they had access to the email discussion I was having with that colleague. At the time, I was too terrified to ask how they got that info. So I didn’t press to find out.Now having moved and in the calm of things, several colleagues and I are trying to write a report of how we were mistreated leaving the Institute. This incident was one thing I always wondered whether I could try to obtain the information for.

Thanks for getting back to me. When did this incident happen and was this using your personal emails at work or using work emails? Also was there an email monitoring policy?

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
July 2016. Work email.
No clear policy to find.October 2016, after a lot of pressure and intimidation to get me to leave the Institute, I gave in and started looking for a new place to go to, but raised a grievance while I was looking for a new position. Between then and now, that grievance policy has changed, twice. A lot of Institute policies are either not there or have changed. It's just the way in that place.A bitter negotiation on a settlement agreement ensued. They threatened me recurrently to agree to their terms (no ET for bullying, harassment, gender discrimination, an NDA, and withdraw the grievance, and leave some science that my boss wanted) and in May 2017, I resigned, refusing to sign the agreement. The Institute is mortified and the funders of the Institute are terrified too. my boss is v high profile, an open secret that he is a ruthless bully but no one challenges him. I am now settling elsewhere and beyond the ET window but am gathering more info to build a case for a formal group report to the funder of the Institute.We are trying to pull together all the facts for various arguments. One of the ones we suspect is work email monitoring used to find bad stuff to use against us. Is it possible for me to ask to know whether they monitored my emails.

Thank you. There is of course nothing stopping you from directly asking if they monitored your emails and to provide any associated details about what they did, how they did and why they did it. The problem is that I believe they will just deny it and eave it at that. There is very little you can do to force them to admit it and provide any evidence about it. Even if they did monitor it, they can very easily say they did not, knowing you have no evidence that it ever happened. What you have is a one off event, which can easily be argued t be based on speculation or a coincidence, but which provides no concrete proof of it ever having been as a result of monitoring by the employer. So unless they volunteer that information, which I very much doubt they will, even if it had occurred, you are limited to relying on their response. You cannot force them to admit it. I suppose you can report them to the Information Commissioner's Office, which deals with data protection breached like this one, but they are rather unlikely to investigate this simply based on the information you have so far. Again, some more concrete evidence would be required, but you have nothing to lose by approaching them to report a potential breach.

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