UH Law Library's Blog

April 9, 2010

Company’s Email Policies Scrutinized in NJ Opinion

Filed under: Electronic Resources — Tags: — uhlawlibrary @ 7:00 am

A New Jersey employee who sent messages to her attorney from her personal, password-protected Yahoo! e-mail account using a company-issued laptop had a reasonable expectation of privacy in those e-mails, a unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court ruled March 30. (Stengart v. Loving Care Agency Inc. N.J., No. A-16-09, 3/30/10).

Stengart was executive director of nursing for Loving Care, a home health care provider, until she resigned in January 2008. Shortly after her resignation, she filed a state court lawsuit alleging violations of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.  Stengart never saved any Yahoo identification or password on the Loving Care computer, but internet browser software automatically retained temporary internet files showing the contents of seven or eight messages she had exchanged with her lawyer.

Loving Care claimed its staff handbook and electronic communication policy precluded Stengart from having a reasonable expectation that her communications on company computers could be considered private.  The company argued that its policies gave it the right to review and access “all matters on the company’s media systems and services at any time.”  But the court faulted the policy for not distinguishing between employee uses of personal e-mail accounts and company e-mail accounts on work computers.  The court also noted that the policy did not alert employees that the contents of previous messages remained in computer cache files where they could be retrieved and read by the company.
Read more in BNA’s Electronic Commerce & Law Report (15 ECLR 543).

The Law Library at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii makes this resource and many others available to faculty, students and staff of the Law School and to other patrons visiting the Law Library.

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