Many of us are guilty of wasting time at work, employers and employees alike. With today’s endless distractions, from Facebook to podcasts to Pokémon, it can be a challenge for employers to get a full day’s work from their employees.
Slacking off has always been subject to discipline, and “cyberslacking”, or an individual’s personal use of email or the Internet while they are supposed to be working, is no different.
The nature of the contract between employer and employee is simple: the employee works and gets paid for that work by the employer. If the employee is not working, then he or she is in breach of their legal obligations under the employment agreement, and can be disciplined or even terminated – with or without cause.
Employers have substantial rights to monitor their employees’ activities at work, including email communications, Internet usage, and the contents of their computer storage. It does not matter whether employees are sending and receiving emails using their workplace email account or Gmail, whether they are watching YouTube videos or pornography, whether they are posting inappropriate or offensive comments on Facebook or merely sharing vacation photos with their friends; employers are entitled to monitor computer usage to determine how much time is being spent working, and how much is being wasted.
Tips for Employers
Employers are advised to have clear policies emphasizing that employees are to be actively engaged in work during work hours and are not permitted to use company equipment for personal or non-work-related purposes. Employers should ensure that these policies set out their right to monitor employees’ computer usage and inform employees of their lack of privacy at work. Employers are also encouraged to take steps to enforce these policies, with computer “pop-ups” that require employees to click that they understand that their computer usage is being monitored or simple verbal and written reminders that it is not acceptable to spend time on non-work-related websites and that doing so may lead to discipline or dismissal – including termination for cause. Employers should ensure not to condone inappropriate computer usage as by failing to address this misconduct, employers may be prevented from later relying on the misconduct to justify terminating that employee for cause – even if they have a formal policy in place.
Tips for Employees
Employees are similarly advised to become familiar with workplace policies regarding email and internet use for both work and non-work related purposes. Even if there is no policy in place, employees should still ensure that they do not engage in cyberslacking or any inappropriate use of company equipment, email and internet while performing their duties. Privacy may exist within the homes of each employee, but not in the workplace or in relation to company property used at home.
Minken Employment Lawyers is your source for expert advice and advocacy on today’s employment law issues. Whether you are an employer or an employee, we can help. Contact us to see how.
Sign up for our e-Newsletter for the latest updates and case studies in employment law.