Privacy vs. policy: Personal use of company equipment

Employees often use electronic equipment at work for personal reasons and employers should be careful when trying to keep it in check
By Keith Burkhardt
|Canadian Employment Law Today

‘Privacy is dead, deal with it’

The words of Sun Microsystems chairman Scott McNealy in 2000 may be a little disconcerting for some, but with the prevalence of electronic devices in everyday life, especially in the workplace, it is difficult to dispute.

The use of electronic resources in the workplace has become so pervasive many employees insist they could not survive even a day without their laptop, cell phone or personal data assistant. Yet while employees use these resources to complete regular employment tasks, often they will also use them for personal or non-business purposes.

It’s usually a good idea for employers to have a policy governing the use of technology in the office such as computers, phones, voicemail, text messages, e-mail, servers, internet access, software, printers and output devices, scanners and input devices and other related equipment. However, having a policy in itself doesn’t mean much if an employer doesn’t give proper notice of the policy and doesn’t consistently enforce it, especially if the employer is monitoring employees’ use of the technology.

Keith Burkhardt of Sherrard Kuzz LLP discusses the important points of implementing an IT use policy and the legal considerations that accompany it.