Employer Access to Employee Gripe Site

In the good old days, the boss overheard you complain at the pub after work.  Now, employees have more sophisticated methods of dishing the dirt. And employers must walk a careful line when navigating the issue of employee privacy.  

  • In Pietrylo v. Hillstone Restaurant Group, Docket No. 2:06-cv-05754 (D.N.J. 2008), a US court decided that employees enjoyed a certain amount of privacy over a gripe-page they created on MySpace.  The pages were designed to be accessed by invitation-only, and provided a place for employees of the Houston’s restaurant chain to rant about their employment. Management heard about it, and asked one of the employees for the password to the site. The employer then promptly fired the 2 employees who had established the site.  When the employees sued their former employer, the court found in favour of the employees, on the basis of invasion of privacy and ordered payment of back-pay.
  • While there has been no similar case yet in Canada, the issues were discussed in University of British Columbia (Re), 2007 CanLII 42407 (BC I.P.C.) where the employer secretly installed spyware on an employee’s workplace desktop to monitor his internet use. The Information and Privacy Commissioner investigated and found that the employer was in breach of public-sector privacy rules by surreptitiously monitoring its employee when it had “less intrusive means to manage the complainant’s employment.”

Related reading: Our post on workplace surveillance cases 

Calgary – 15:30 MST

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