In a landmark decision on January 12, 2016, the CEDH (European Court of Human Rights), ruled that employers have the right to read their employees private emails sent during working hours, on condition that this surveillance remains reasonable.

Surveillance of a professional email account: The context of this decision:

A Rumanian sales engineer had opened a professional “Yahoo Messenger” at his employer’s request in order to respond to client’s queries.

During one week the employer had checked the use of this account and found that it was being used for messages between the employee and members of his family and his fiancée, while the Company’s rules stated that all private use of professional email accounts was prohibited.

The employer dismissed the employee for his misconduct.

The Employee claimed for unfair dismissal before the Rumanian Courts which rejected his claims.

Then he argued before the ECHR that his “rights to the respect of his private and family life” had been violated.

This Claim was also rejected.

No violation of private life took place:

The Court ruled that it is not abuse of private life for an employer to check that an employee uses his/her working time to work.

For this case the surveillance resulted in listing all the non-professional communication made without producing the contain and the identity of the addressees. Thus the ECHR concluded that there was a balance between the rights of employer and the human rights of the employee.

The French Supreme Court had already ruled in the same way.