An office email affair to remember (after being fired)I once worked for a financial company where one of the Vice Presidents (no pun intended) was having an affair with a woman in another division. And despite his being an otherwise savvy member of the IT unit and knowing this was against company policy, he never imagined that their emails were being eagerly read by the email tech team.Knowing how things really work in such places, it probably only became an issue because he had strong opinions and voiced them often, most likely offending the wrong someone at some point. And his being married only added to the juiciness of the story. Interestingly enough, it was the woman who was fired, NOT the male VP.I made a point of bolding the part about who got fired, since that is not an uncommon outcome. So while the moral decision is your own, remember that there can be far-reaching consequences to your career – including accompanying stories and rumors that get passed on and can even be found online long after by new employers.
Is it really ok for an employer to check your email?
Company emailIf you’re using email that goes through their servers, then the answer is most likely “yes!” According to employment attorney Donna Ballman (Can Your Boss Read Your Email?): “If you are emailing to and from your work email address, then that address is probably your employer’s property, not yours.”In fact, in the case of the VP, I was told that the emails made it to the top of the “can’t wait to read the next one” list. And it was all legal since they were corresponding using their employee email addresses – and not even trying to use code of any kind. Just “oh baby I want you now” type emails.Unless otherwise stated, if you use company email there is no privacy guarantee, although in most cases no one is reading it. But it is there and easily found if needed for any company reason, such as an investigation or law suit. And, there have been cases of snoopy employees just reading for fun.
Personal email at workPersonal email is trickier. If neither you nor the person you’re writing to are using company email, then in theory that should remain private. BUT it’s important to note that opened personal emails can be seen by the company, since at that point the contents reside on the company servers.More from Ms. Ballman:
“If you open your personal email on a company-owned computer, phone or other device, those emails may sit on your company’s server indefinitely. Some companies even use key-logging programs that may capture every keystroke you use, including passwords … If they use those on work devices, the company will have access to their personal emails.”While the odds of this happening are slim and legality questionable, technology does make it possible for an employer to store your keystrokes and passwords and then use them later on to peruse (hack) your personal email. Still, unopened emails on 3rd party systems should be safe.