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Telephone and Voice Mail Privacy At Work

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What Is My Employer's Phone Privacy Policy?

Generally, your employer may listen to your work-related phone conversations. More specific information concerning exact company policies are likely to be discussed:

Lacking knowledge of your employer's privacy policy will not be a strong argument if you have violated other company regulations. Therefore, you should become familiar with the rules and expectations that exist in your workplace.

Can My Employer Monitor My Phone Conversations?

Your employer is usually permitted to listen to your phone calls at work, as long as the conversations are for quality-control purposes or client-related. An employer may not listen to a personal conversation. However, if you have been instructed not to make personal calls (and you do), you may not be have access to a privacy defense.

Can My Employer Check My Phone Records?

A pen register can be used to record outgoing phone numbers from your extension. Employers can use pen registers to monitor actual phone numbers you dialed and the length of your conversation.

Can My Employer Listen To My Voice Mail?

As long as your employer has a work-related reason to question the content of your voice mail, it may monitor the recordings. However, your employer may have difficulty showing that you are not entitled to voice mail privacy, especially if it:

  • Previously stated that it would not monitor voice mail;
  • Gave you a private voicemail account access code; or
  • Allowed you to make and receive personal calls in the workplace.

Can My Employer Search My Mobile Device (smartphones, tablets, etc.)?

It depends on whether the device was provided by the employer or is your personal mobile device.

If the device was provided by the employer, then your employer can legally monitor everything you do on that device. This can include text messages, received email messages, and any other media such as videos and photos. Employers can also install software to monitor all activities conducted on the mobile device. As an employee, you should assume that all activity on an employer provided device are monitored.

In the case of using your personal device for work, some employers establish policies concerning this usage. They are usually called Bring Your Own Device or BYOD policies. The BYOD policy is usually provided in the employee manual or during orientation. Employers will explain the acceptable uses for BYODs and what employees can expect regarding their privacy rights on their devices.

The type of business your employer has and the circumstances of the devices usage can also determine what rights your employer have to access your personal device. Employers may be legally required to access work data found on your personal device. These circumstances can include, but are not limited to:

  • State and federal security breach notification laws
  • State, federal, and industry-specific regulations
  • Data security regulations
  • International data protection laws
  • eDiscovery and other forms of legal procedure
  • Contractual obligations concerning data retention
  • Confidentiality obligations
  • Client contractual obligations
  • Trade secret protections

As an employee, it is important to read your employer’s BYOD policies before participating in the program.

Do I Need An Employment Lawyer?

If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated based on a workplace phone conversation or voice mail, you may consider speaking with an employment lawyer. An attorney will be familiar with the federal and state laws that apply to your personal employment situation and may represent you in court, if necessary.

Photo of page author Emily Yu

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 03-15-2018 11:20 PM PDT

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