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Can you read an employee's email messages?

You're worried about your employees leaking trade secrets. You think it may happen via email. You understand just how fast information can change hands in 2019.

To keep track of everything, can you monitor the email messages your employees send? Or do they have a right to privacy? What if they use a personal email address at work? Does that change anything?

Generally speaking, you do have a right to monitor the equipment that your company owns. This could include computers, tablets, phones, wireless networks and much more. If it is your equipment, employees cannot expect to have a right to privacy.

In fact, just like schools, many companies use computer monitoring software so that they can check in real-time and see what an employee is doing on their computer as they're doing it. You may also have access to business email accounts and phone records.

Now, that doesn't mean you have a right to monitor everything that an employee does. If they use their personal phone to send an email message through their personal account, that doesn't necessarily include company equipment. You clearly cannot monitor things they do on personal equipment when they're not on the clock. However, if they are at work and using equipment that you own -- or the company owns -- then you can monitor that to make sure they are not selling your trade secrets to a third party.

If you do start digging and you find out that trade secrets have been stolen, you must know all of the legal steps you can take.

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Costello Law Corporation
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