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Can I be fired for what's on my work computer?

Missouri workers may wonder just how much right to privacy they have on the job. In short, not very much. As the premises, the facilities and the equipment all technically are the property of the employer, they have the right to conduct searches of lockers, desks, offices and company vehicles.

Courts across the nation have determined that there is no expectation of privacy for employees in company-owned property. The many technological advances that made computers, email and Smartphones ubiquitous in the workplace also are governed under the same privacy laws. Basically, if the company supplies it, it may search and/or monitor it and an employee's use of it.

Employees who are part of labor unions may be entitled to other privacy rights that resulted from collective bargaining negotiations. An employment law attorney or union representative can provide clarification on such matters.

An employee does not, under normal circumstances, have the right to search an employee's personal vehicle. If an employer suspects that an employee has something illegal or hazardous in their vehicle, they must follow the proper procedure and notify law enforcement who can then obtain a legal search warrant.

Some workers may wonder if their boss can listen in on their phone calls. To maintain quality control, they are allowed to monitor phone calls. If they become aware that the call is personal and not business related, they are obliged to quit monitoring the call. But this can also cause problems for workers if a policy prohibits personal phone calls on the job.

In most cases, workers can be monitored by security cameras, although dressing rooms and restrooms are considered off limit. Some limited searches of employees leaving the premises are also permitted to prevent employee theft.

If you have specific questions about workers' rights to privacy, consult a Missouri employee law attorney for additional information.

Source: FindLaw, "Privacy at Work: What Are Your Rights?" Nov. 06, 2014

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