Hi, I've worked for a company for nearly 4 years, and during that time have never had any trouble. Last week I was pulled up for eating at my desk, which the company handbook doesn't cover, so no other action was taken. The next day I was called into a meeting with another manager and given an "informal chat" about my non-work related internet usage. (everyone in the company does it!). I accepted this and haven't gone near the internet since. However, on Friday I was called into another meeting and warned that this would be the last "informal chat" - they accused me of using company time and equipment for personal business, which according to them is gross misconduct. What had happened was this - Approximately 6 weeks ago I'd sent an email, through my private yahoo account during my lunchbreak to a friend and ex-client of mine (I'm a graphic designer) giving her some prices for design and print. I've never ever used company time or equipment to actually do any private freelance work. At this meeting it was indicated that a line be drawn under the matter, but that next time disciplinary action would be taken.Two questions: 1. Are they allowed to access my yahoo account (even I need a user name and password XXXXX get into it) and2. Could they legally, go back even further and pull out another case of 'gross misconduct'. What I'm worried about is that they scan all my emails and find another of that kind from say a year ago and make it a disciplinary matter now. I'd really appreciate your help. I'm very worried.Many thanks, Fiona
Province/Country relating to question : Scotland
This is a common problem. Unfortunately, your employer can monitor your email use providing they notify you that they are doing this and their reason for doing so. It is unlikley that they will be able to go back to previous violations and use these to discipline you. This is because they stated in the meeting that any further violations would result in disciplinary action. Logically, this would refer to future violations as oppose to previous.
I suggest that you read your company's policy on internet usage at work and ensure you stay well within its boundaries. As a general rule, you should be extremely careful about accessing personal email at work. While your employer will not have access to your email, any page you open can be viewed by them. The surveillance technology is extremely sophisticated. Also avoid doing any kind of freelance work during office hours. Unfortuantley, quoting prices would fall within that category if disciplinary action were to be taken against you.
If you stay on the right side of your company's internet policy from now no, you should be okay. I hope you have found this post useful however if you have any further questions, please feel free to ask. If you have found this answer helpful, kindly click on the accept button so that I may be paid.
9 years post graduate experience in general commerical law
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