A Romanian man should not have been fired for sending private messages at work, Europe’s human rights court has ruled.
Bogdan Mihai Barbulescu has been dismissed for sending messages via the messaging system Yahoo in 2007.
His employer had used the monitoring software to monitor his computer activity.
A Romanian court of justice ruled in 2016 that the company was within its rights, but it has been canceled.
Mr. Barbulescu has successfully challenged the original decision.
Some of the communications that it had sent were “intimate in nature” and were sent to his brother, and his girlfriend, the court heard.
However, his right to privacy had not been “sufficiently protected,” the supreme organ of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled.
The ECHR has also said that it was not clear if Mr. Barbulescu had been warned that his communications would be monitored, and that the court had not established precisely why the follow-up activities have taken place.
As it is the highest court, there can be no appeal.Employer can read private messages’
“…although it was doubtful that Mr. Barbulescu could have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the view of his employer, the restrictive regulations on the use of the internet, of which he had been informed, the employer instructions could not reduce private and social life in the workplace to zero”, the court said in its decision.
In a question and answer section on its website, the ECHR said that the decision does not mean that companies can now monitor the communications of employees at work, and that they can still dismiss employees for private use.
“However, the Court considers that States should ensure that, when an employer takes steps to monitor employees’ communications, these measures are accompanied by measures and adequate safeguards against abuse,” he said.
Catrina Smith, employment partner of law firm Norton Rose Fulbright said that he would not have a huge impact on the united KINGDOM, the regulations on employment.
“What will he do, for companies who thought they had a little more margin of manoeuvre that they have done, is confirm the fact that they are not,” she said.
“It will hopefully remind employers that they must think about these issues and be very clear with employees about what is and is not permissible.
“Employees must also be more intelligent about the way in which they use both personal and work devices.”
Ms. Smith added that in the UK both the Data Protection Act and the Interception of Communications Act set clear guidelines for employers on what they can control.
“You must ensure that the employee understands that [monitoring] could occur and you must have a good reason to do so,” she said.
“It is all about having a dialogue and have an agreement about what is and is not personal.”
It must also be clear guidelines on the use of personal devices for work purposes, she added.
“In the old days, if you have taken papers of the house, they still belonged to the employer,” she said.
“You must have a clear understanding of the amount of property of the employer on the information held on a personal device.”