Court Rules that Employers Can Access Workers' Personal Messages

March 6, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. intended / ɪnˈtɛn dɪd / (v.) – to design something for a specific use
Example: The room is intended for mothers who want to breastfeed their babies.

2. breach / britʃ / (n.) – a violation of something
Example: Employees are provided a copy of company rules and regulations to avoid breach of company policies.

3. sue / su / (v.) – to file a legal case against an individual, a group of people, or an organization
Example: A group of employees was sued for stealing company property.

4. correspondence / ˌkɔr əˈspɒn dəns / (n.) – exchange of written messages
Example: Answering emails from customers improved the employee’s skills in business correspondence.

5. dismiss / dɪsˈmɪs / (v.) – to deny or reject
Example: My boss dismissed my request for a month-long leave.


Read the text below.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) sided with a company that fired an employee for sending personal messages during work hours.

The court ruled that companies can monitor their employees' private messages. The decision came after a Romanian employee, Bogdan Mihai Bărbulescu, filed a case against his employer after he was terminated for sending personal messages using a messaging app intended for work.

Bărbulescu's employer found that he was using Yahoo Messenger for both work and personal purposes. The company informed him about it and fired him for breach of a company policy that prohibits employees from using the messaging app for personal reasons. Bărbulescu then sued his company, saying that it violated his right to confidential correspondence.

Bărbulescu lost the case after the court dismissed his claims. Judges said that it was reasonable for a company to check if its employees were doing their tasks during work hours. The judges also said that he violated his company's internal regulations, which strictly forbids the use of office equipment such as computers for personal purposes.

Slater and Gordon's Acting Head of Employment Claire Dawson said that while the court was clearly aware that monitoring Bărbulescu's private messages involved his right to a private life and correspondences, the employer did not breach the employee's privacy. Termination is a severe punishment for someone who just used office equipment for personal reasons and who had no serious company offense in the past. However, a huge number of personal messages could be enough reason for an employer to fire a worker, Dawson said.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

·         Do you think it was fair for Bărbulescu’s employer to fire him because he used Yahoo Messenger for personal reasons? Why or why not?
·         What are the possible disadvantages to a company if its employees use company resources for personal reasons?

Discussion B
·         How important is it to follow company policies? Explain your answer.
·         If you were an employer, how would you ensure that employees follow the rules and regulations of your company?

March 6, 2016