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Can I monitor my employees’ online activities?

It may be rare for a company in Florida to have a workplace free of computers and electronic resources. Even if you have one of these businesses, your employees may still have smartphones with which they are able to access social media accounts, email and other communication methods. While activities that are not work related may be a productivity issue for your company, they may also compromise important information. However, as the Small Business Administration points out, your rights as an employer only extend to a certain point before you are guilty of violating privacy laws, which could put you at risk for employment litigation.

You may be able to search employees’ emails if your business provides you with a compelling reason for the activity, but only if the content is business related and sent or received from one of your company’s computers. To ensure that this exemption does apply to you, and that the legal system may rule in your favor in the event of a lawsuit, it is best to include a statement in your company policies and procedures informing workers of possible scrutiny. If you review their personal emails, you may be found guilty of violating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986.

The security of your company’s trade secrets and other confidential information may also be at risk from your employees’ social media accounts. When drafting the policy for social media activity, there are not many legal precedents for you to follow, but preventing breaches through this avenue may be affected by more than one federal law, including the U.S. National Labor Relations Act. Other legal factors may apply, as well, depending on your situation. This information is for educational purposes only. It should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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