The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decided today that companies must tell employees in advance if they plan to monitor their work email so as not to unduly infringe on their privacy. This is a big win for employees, as in the past, courts tended to side with employers on the issue, favouring monitoring over privacy.
The ruling came after the ECHR looked into the case of Bogdan Bărbulescu after he was fired from his workplace ten years ago for using a work account to contact his family. The ECHR ruled that the Romanian courts had failed to protect Bărbulescu’s private correspondence because he had been given no prior warning by his employer that they would be checking his communications.
Esther Lynch, confederal secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, said:
“This set of requirements will restrict to an important extent the employers’ possibilities to monitor the workers’ electronic communications. Although it does not generally prohibit such monitoring, it sets high thresholds for its justification. This is a very important step to better protect worker’s privacy.”
The ECHR ruled by an 11-6 majority against the Romanian judges who had backed the employer who wasn’t named.