Common sense a must while using workplace computers

Kevin Marshall

October 29, 2012

When using a workplace computer for personal reasons, use common sense deciding in what type of activity to engage in, says Toronto employment lawyer Kevin Marshall.  

“The police will not be interested if you are using your office computer to send an innocuous email to a friend or are booking a restaurant meal with your spouse,” says Marshall. “They will be interested if you are engaged in illegal activity, regardless of whether the computer is located at home, the office or elsewhere.”

The Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled that evidence of child pornography found on a high school teacher’s computer can be used against him notwithstanding his reasonable expectation that the contents of his computer were private, the Globe and Mail reports.  Read Globe and Mail

The judgment broke new ground on an issue that is heating up in the court system – the extent to which Internet information is private and beyond the reach of the law, the report says.

Marshall says while he believes employees should have privacy rights over personal use of workplace computers, it’s important for users to make responsible decisions.

“An employee should not save any material on the workplace computer that, if discovered, would likely lead to criminal charges being laid.”

Employers should include a provision dealing with limitations on the use of office computers in employment agreements.

“This will minimize the likelihood that the employer will be charged along with the employee should controversial material be discovered on the workplace computer.”

“The employee would be best to remember that the employer can and sometimes will review any communication on the office computer for evidence of productivity or lack thereof. Communications deemed detrimental to the interests of the employer may result in sanctions by the employer against the employee.”

Marshall says social media has made it more likely that employees will open up about their personal lives online.

“Employees would be wise to assume that employers are watching at all times.”