“A seismic shift in the way privacy rights are dealt with in the workplace.”
That’s what employment lawyer Daniel Lublin is calling a ruling published last week in the Globe and Mail that has got a lot of HR professionals scrambling to revamp privacy policies.
Many lawyers and policy makers gasped at the decision that high school teacher Richard Cole’s privacy was violated when the school’s IT staff disclosed pornography that was found on his computer. The Ontario Court of Appeal reasoned that when employers give computers to employees for use outside of the office, they are granting “explicit permission to use the laptops for personal use.” Though the decision is significant, Lublin points out that “there is still a distinction between those (mobile devices) and equipment such as desktop computers that never leave the office. That distinction is not addressed in this decision”.
Cautioning employees, Lublin goes on to say that the decision doesn’t create a “carte blanche for employees to do things such as load and trade pornography on their computers, or for employers to let them do it”. The most important safeguard against misuse of computers and the protection of privacy is to ensure that computer policy is clearly worded and conveyed. Given the details of this case, you may want to distinguish between stationary and mobile devices.