Personal Communications at work. Private or not?
Personal Communications at work. Private or not? Bărbulescu v. Romania
The recent ruling, by the ECHR, in Bărbulescu v. Romania, confirmed there was no violation of an employee’s Article 8 human right to privacy, where the employee had used his company’s internet for personal communications uses during work hours, and was consequently dismissed.
Mr Bărbulescu was employed by a private company who had directed him to use Yahoo messenger as a means to liaise with clients. Mr Bărbulescu used the account for personal messaging including discussing his health and sex life. This constitutes a breach of his employment contract and as a result he was dismissed. Mr Bărbulescu proceeded to bring a claim against his employer for a breach of his Convention rights to privacy. Mr Bărbulescu considered that the Romanian courts should have excluded all evidence of his personal communications on the basis they were, by their very nature, private.
The ECHR considered that whilst the employee’s Article 8 rights to privacy were engaged the Romanian courts has struck a fair balance between his rights and the interests of the employer. The ECHR considered in accessing the data from Mr Bărbulescu’s work messenger account was not unreasonable, especially given the original access was on the basis it contained professional communications only. Further, the ECHR considered it reasonable for an employer to verify an employee was undertaking the work required within work hours.
Whilst this ruling does not give an employer an automatic right to monitor an employee’s personal communications, employees will no doubt be aware that private communications via work channels cannot be expected to be completely private.
IMPORTANT: This blog is only intended as a general statement of the law and no action should be taken in reliance on it without specific legal advice.
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