More and more companies are introducing an electronic system for accurate time recording. In most cases it is a system of card-operated doors. Data read from the chip when opening the card allow, after analysis, to determine when and where the employee left. More and more employees complain that their bosses monitor their online activities and sometimes even read their e-mails. Phone calls are also monitored. Are such actions of the employer lawful?
After receiving a number of inquiries on these issues, “Gazeta Prawna” decided to clarify the matter.
When it comes to recording working time – the employer has the right (and even the obligation) to record working time. However, the law does not specify how this is to be done. Whether in the classic manner (attendance register, time card) or with the use of state-of-the-art technologies (e.g. as described above). The employer also has the right to restrict some employees to enter certain areas of the company not directly related to their work.
However, the situation is slightly different when it comes to monitoring an employee’s computer activities. Although Polish law has not grown up with the development of technology and does not specify how to deal with e-mails, it is customary to treat e-mails (from a legal standpoint) identically to traditional letters. In the latter case, an unauthorised person opening an envelope and getting acquainted with the content of the letter without the sender’s consent may be accused of infringement of privacy rights. It is the same with e-mails, although this is not directly sanctioned by our law.
However, the employer may monitor mail to find out (by addresses) whether correspondence sent from company equipment is private or business, and has the right to intervene if private e-mails constitute the vast majority of correspondence. There has already been a precedent case in Poland, when an employee dismissed for “lack of care about the employer’s property” (read: “abuse of the employer’s property”) (read: “misuse of the company keyboard for private correspondence”) took the company to court for “invasion of privacy”. The first instance court ordered the employee to be reinstated, but after an appeal the employer won.
An employer may also scan mail for virus protection and block emails that the company’s security software “deems” potentially dangerous (viruses, spam) to the company. Your employer may also prohibit you from using your personal email while at work.
The employer also has the right to monitor so-called “personal e-mail”. computer logs, from which it can be deduced which websites were surfed by the employee during his work. Since the computer site is not treated (even customarily) as a letter – the employer also has the right to look at what sites are viewed by the employee, and if he finds that they are not related to the nature of the work – draw consequences (from blocking access to certain sites up to consequences against the employee).
The boss also has the right to check what programs we use. It is not uncommon for employees to install illegal software they brought from home – which can lead to incalculable consequences (even up to 5 years in prison) – not for employees, but for company bosses. For not having seen to it.
There are also cases when such software installed without bosses’ knowledge is legal, but it doesn’t serve business purposes, or interferes with company’s network or software.
In the case of calls made from work, the employer who pays for them has the right to require that they be used only for business activities. However, since it is impossible to completely separate work life from private life – employers usually monitor (on the basis of billing records) the numbers to which calls were made. And when an employee’s phone bill exceeds a reasonable limit – they check to see how many of those calls were business calls and make the employee pay for the private calls. This is permissible under the law. However, eavesdropping on employees’ conversations is not allowed by law (unless the employee agrees to it).
Surveillance, i.e., peeping in on employees via cameras, is also too “ahead” of our laws, which state nothing about it. Therefore, it is legally permissible to install such cameras even in bathrooms or changing rooms. It is also permissible to monitor without notification of the employee. However, usually – despite the lack of a legal requirement – employers inform their employees about the installation of cameras