An Expectation of Privacy: When Does an Employer Have the Right to Monitor Employee E-Mail Messages?

An Expectation of Privacy: When Does an Employer Have the Right to Monitor Employee E-Mail Messages?

Andrew Urbaczewski (Washington State University, USA) and Juho Rikala (MARS, Inc., Finland)
Copyright: © 2001 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-592-9.ch003


This case presents the ethical dilemma of an IT staff member at an academic university. The IT staffer was caught in the middle of a squabble between the dean of the business school and the associate dean, also of the business school. Professional differences spilled over into personal differences, and the Dean was seeking methods of retribution against the associate dean while the associate dean was on sabbatical. E-mail is an extensively used tool at this university, and the dean suspected that the associate dean was sending personal messages on the universitys server. The dean asked the IT staffer to intervene in two ways: 1) remove her from the staff e-mail list; and 2) forward all of her e-mail to both the dean and the deans secretary. He hoped that there would be evidence of misuse of government resources, giving him just cause to terminate her. While this case is based on real events in a real organization, we have changed the names of organizations and participants involved. We regret having to make changes to even the nation in which the program is located, but the tightness of the community compelled the players involved to require absolute anonymity before they gave their consent to publish.

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