Employers May Be Liable for Reading Employees’ Personal Emails on Company Devices

August 16th, 2013

Email Privacy

by Brian Harris

On June 5, 2013, a federal court in Ohio ruled that Verizon Wireless may be liable under the federal Stored Communications Act (“SCA”) and Ohio tort law. The case is based on a former employee’s allegations that, after she returned her company-issued Blackberry, her Verizon supervisor read 48,000 emails on a personal Gmail account that remained on the device. In denying Verizon’s motion to dismiss, the court was particularly concerned about the large quantity of personal emails the supervisor read, and the likelihood that some of those emails were unopened at the time he accessed them. This ruling shows:

• Liability under the SCA is not just limited to computer hackers, and could apply to employers who access their employees’ personal email on company-issued devices.

• Such employers should be aware that, even if the employer has authority to use the device, and the employee neglects to delete personal email after returning the device, the employee may still have a legitimate expectation that personal emails will remain private.

The case is Lazette v. Kulmatycki, No. 3:12CV2416 (N.D. Ohio June 5, 2013).



This information is presented for educational purposes and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Opinions expressed are those of the author and not of Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP; see disclaimer at http://www.www.mmmtechlaw.com/privacy-policy-and-disclaimer/. Contact Brian Harris for more information at bharris@mmmlaw.com