Woods is a shareholder in the Greenville, South Carolina office of law firm Ogletree Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, PC. His remarks came at BLR's National Employment Law Update, held recently in Las Vegas.
The U.S. Supreme Court held that a police department's search of an officer's text messages was reasonable and did not violate the officer's Fourth Amendment rights. The Court decided the opinion on narrow grounds, however, side-stepping the issue of whether the officer had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
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In the second case, says Woods, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that Marina Stengart, Executive Director of Nursing at Loving Care, Inc. had a reasonable expectation of privacy in emails that she sent to her attorney from her personal Yahoo account on a company-issued laptop.
Loving Care's electronic communications policy stated that e-mail and Internet use were not to be considered private—"[t]he company reserves and will exercise the right to review, audit, intercept, access, and disclose all matters on the company's media systems and services at any time, with or without notice."
However, the policy also stated that "occasional personal use [of e-mail] is permitted." The policy specifically prohibited numerous uses of the e-mail system, such as job searching and forwarding chain mail. However, the policy was silent about communicating with attorneys. Additionally, the policy made no reference to communicating via personal, password-protected e-mail accounts (e.g., gmail, yahoo, etc.)
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The court ruled that Stengart had a reasonable expectation of privacy in e-mails sent between her and her attorney, via her personal Yahoo account, and that the company's lawyers violated the Rules of Professional Conduct by failing to either promptly give notice to Stengart about the emails or to seek a judicial determination to determine whether or not the communications were privileged.
In tomorrow's Advisor, Wood's takeaways, his tips for your technology policy, plus some good news—your ADA-compliant job descriptions are already written and available in CD form.
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