Worker whose messages were monitored had human rights breached

Privacy Accessible Permission Verification Security Concept

The European Court of Human Rights today supported the mans assertion that his privacy had not been protected because no notice had been given that his communications at work were being monitored.

In a case that is still pending, an employee of the French national rail company, SNCF, has protested his firing.

The Strasbourg court is the global court established by the ECHR, which is a separate institution from the European Union, and was founded in 1959.

To view the full article, register now. Britain enacted regulations in 2000, giving employers broad power to record or monitor employees' communications without consent, as long as they took reasonable steps to inform employees that their communications might be intercepted.

Mr Barbulescu successfully challenged the original decision. Further, such monitoring must not infringe upon workers' privacy, the court ruled.

In an initial decision in January previous year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the French city of Strasbourg ruled against a Romanian software engineer who claimed his rights had been infringed.

The Grand Chamber, the ECHR' supreme body, ruled by an 11- 6 majority that Romanian judges - by backing the employer - had failed to protect Barbulescu's right to private life and correspondence. Email privacy has become a controversial issue, Reuters noted, as more employees use work addresses for personal messages even as employers often maintain the right to monitor those communications.

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The grand chamber also ruled that national courts had failed to sufficiently assess the scope and degree of the privacy intrusion (which involved monitoring all the contents of Bărbulescu's communications); whether less intrusive methods could have been used; whether there had been legitimate reasons to justify the monitoring; and judged that national courts had not considered the seriousness of the consequences of the monitoring - i.e. Bărbulescu's subsequent dismissal.

Catrina Smith, employment partner at the legal firm Norton Rose Fulbright said it would not have a huge impact on United Kingdom employment regulation.

"The Court concluded, from the material in the case file, that Mr Bărbulescu had not been informed in advance of the extent and nature of his employer's monitoring, or the possibility that the employer might have access to the actual contents of his messages.".

Courts in general have sided with employers on this issue.

"Employees also need to be smarter about the way in which they use both personal and work devices".

"You have to make sure the employee understands that [monitoring] might happen and you have to have a good reason for doing so", she said. The decision will cheer workers' rights groups, who have previously argued for clearer policies and guidelines for the use of the internet and messaging systems during working hours.

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