Everything in the world has advantages and disadvantages. It is not an exception for email usage in the workplace because it could help and encourage employees to abusive things. Thus, trigger needs for employers to monitor employees email usage to reduce the risk of liability and protect the organization and its employees too.

This paper will discuss what is email and ethics, is employer monitoring of employees email ethical? How does it beneficial for employers to monitor employees’ email? And the zone of privacy of employee’s email usage regarding intrusive spying, and What can be the solution for email monitoring from the legal point of view.

Monitoring of Employee’s Email Usage

According to (Rich, 2013) Ethics is an ideal human behaviour pattern and the ways of being perfect.  According to Aristotle (1853), execution of ideal behaviour pattern that leads to a state of having good sprit, healthy and happy life. Further, kant (1886) believed that ideal behaviour was being adhered to one’s duty and responsibility and well-being meant being treated with worthy of honour or respect. And having the ability to think out of the box, to think critically.

In the view of philosophy, ethics is a systematic process of understanding, analysing and differentiating the things whether right or wrong and good or bad. These decisions are applied through the code of conduct, formal theories and developed for religions, professions, and places. Ethics is not a defined condition, It is an active process. Unethical describes the negative form of ethical, for example, a person’s behaviour or character is contrary to accepted traits, code of conduct that has been declared by community, society, and professions.

As reported by (Bbc.co.uk, 2011), Due to the rapid development in information technology sector, organizations have several advantages. One of them is email communication, in earlier decades, the letter was the main form of communication which was very slow and not reliable but now email has changed the way of communication within and out of an organization. Email is communication service, which is provided by email providers such as Gmail, Hotmail, yahoo mail. They use the internet to deliver the messages between the communication devices such as pc, smart phone, tablet. In an organization, Hey do have their own smtp servers for the employee’s email communication. The major privacy problem, is employer monitoring of employee’s email usage ethical?

According to (Morgan, ‎1999), employers have the power to control and guide the employee’s work and they should have to expect sincere work from the employees and to protect their company software, hardware, and the confidential data. these employer’s rights and employee’s rights to privacy should be balanced, the best way is to implement an e-mail policy and ensure that employees have read the terms and have agreed to it. This email use policy should contain the proper usage of company email system and the circumstances of email monitoring which are done due to the goal of protecting the organization and its employees against inappropriate use.

Email usage policy should state that any personal information gathered about employees by email monitoring will not be used for any other unnecessary purposes in any way. employers should not monitor their employees excessively than mentioned in email usage policy. Employees should read the policies and understood it well. it is more preferring to have written agreement of acknowledgement. email monitoring should not be kept as secret unless based on any abusive suspicion. surreptitious email monitoring can be avoided by adhering to the law.

Moreover, according to (peter j, Shawn, Robort, 2001), Sexual harassment is a new problem in workplace, The use of email and internet acts as a catalyst and encourage it further rather than regular face to face or telephone or letter communication. If one or two employees start to communicate offensive materials through email, it will encourage others to participate in it. Defamation is another issue that an employee can create a wrong information and with the help of email, he can have forwarded it to the world to diminish the reputation of the company.

Another problem is misusing the copyright materials and sharing it through company email system to the peers could be result in employer liability. the risk of wrong full distribution of trade secret is a huge problem. it can be an intentional act of employees or can be forward unintentionally to wrong person. loss of productivity due to   use of email system to share excessive jokes and stories among employees. it is not easy to detect such activities.

Employer email monitoring has advantages .if  employers monitor email, they  can make sure that employees are spending their working hours for work, harassment will be reduced and it can be identified and corrected quickly, they can easily prove the misconducted employees according to ECPA , email can be intercepted under certain condition that employer should have written agreement with employees about email monitoring and employees should be acknowledged to it and if email service has been provided to its company and not to public then employer can be access stored emails. for example, the court found that Anderson consulting LLP providing its own email system not providing for public. if the employers monitoring of email does not fit into this ECPA exception then they should have to face legal liability.

If employers started to monitor employees, potential for liability can be reduced. first step that employers need to apprise about the email monitoring to their employees so that it will encourage employees not to do any type of harassment activities. studies have shown that most of the employers do not inform about email monitoring to their employees and monitor surreptitiously leaves them to ECPA policy violation. employers should create a monitoring policy and it’s for business purpose should written clearly. This policy document should be acknowledged by employees and have a signed written agreement.

However, (Rustad , Paulssontt, 2005),  conclude that Abuse of email usage has led employers to monitor the employee’s email usage activity even though no remedies for intrusive e- spying regarding electronic monitoring in us, property-based approach. Today every e-spying eye would be replaced by an electronic gaze that treats every employee in the workplace as an object to be monitored.

Harmonizing workplace email monitoring law with the privacy administration of European trading partners. Thus, leads the U.S to more competitive in global economy. Approved legislation should be balanced appropriately against employers need to monitor employees email usage and the privacy right of employees regarding sensitive information such as personal finance, health, and relationship as well as other personal information that is not related to the organization. The need for balance is very clear to avoid turning it into hollow as well as an empty shell.

Guiding the employees with defined procedural rights will lead toward the great productivity because employees will have the freedom of zone for their privacy. This respectful change would prevent uncontrollable anger against treating employees as a machine of the past and again in the present information world.  Respect of reasonable expectation of privacy by employees will create a balanced humanity working place as well as protecting employer’s risk. Finally, creating a balanced labour law about employer monitoring of employee email usage that respects each person.

However, according to (Ciocchetti,2001) current law regarding email monitoring by a private company is not fully tested by the courts. employers who avoid accountability for email monitoring should take necessary action to eliminate all expectation of privacy by clearly written email usage policy.

This email policy should contain the limitation of personal usage of the email system and the employer’s ability to monitor, record and review all communication via company email system and also this statement should contain the actual business reason behind the email monitoring and under which circumstance monitoring will take place. this statement also should include that the employee cannot have any expectation of privacy regarding any emails that he/she sent and received at the workplace.

The employee should need to understand that current law cannot be safe from excessive personal email usage of company email system at workplace, however, most employers prefer some personal email usage from employee’s own account rather than a company provided an account. it is much safer for the employee, but excessive usage will affect work product and deadlines. This will increase the chance of employee monitoring as overall low performance. even though, the employee should feel safe that the excessive monitoring of email and employer abuses of email monitoring privilege will federal statues and create personal rights violation. anyway, federal and state constitutions Favor reasonable email monitoring practices.

As Reported by (ABCNEWS, 2018), Banter (2018) senior adviser at amazon stated that the employers have the access to employee’s email usage. Most of the major companies that oftenly apply for experimental patent rights. And she said that tracking employee’s email usage cannot be avoidable, and it will conduct in new form. Employees have the need to accept to the policy as they need to continue in their job.

As Reported by (BBC, 2017) , a professional services company known as Deloitte found that the  41% of the companies experiencing loss of revenue when the reputation of the brand name and productivity go down.  Kirsten Smith (2017) , a human resource consultant of UK basedface2faceHR stated, tracking employees is not only protect the company reputation but also ensure that the what employees are doing regarding work.

As reported by The Guardian (2017), Greg Moran (2017), COO of Wiretap stated that having the visibility of employee’s email usage that allows the employees step into productivity. Even if employee does not do serious crime, but if any employee getting into wrong path, it is easy to identify his/her behavior in the first place. Employee’s productivity can be monitor by the software that records no of emails sent and received within the organization and out of organization, no of times documents opened, and the keystrokes. This software will analyse normal behaviour of the employee’s usage over period and if any employee deviate from the normal behaviour. it will detect as anomaly and produce alert to relevant people.


In conclusion, monitoring employees’ email can be unethical from the view point of employees but generally, it should be ethical because the organization has given their email service to their employees to fulfil the organizational needs. The data that present in the emails belong to the organization and it should be, and employees are not allowed to use organizational mail system to perform their person tasks. In this scenario, the organization, they are monitoring their data, so it is ethical to monitor employee’s emails. it will not affect the employees unless they are abusing the organization’s email system.

But targeting a specific employee and over monitoring his or her without prior notice is unethical. It is ethical if the organization is already mentioned about email usage in their email policy document and get employees agreement signed in a written form if any activity of employees has triggered suspicion, then no problem with employer monitoring of employee’s email usage. It’s very much needed for the organization to protect their reputation and productivity. Otherwise not only employers will be affected but also other employees will be affected by one employee’s email abusive.


  1. Bbc.co.uk.(2011). [online] Available at:http://www.bbc.co.uk/webwise/2010/pdf/level-one/scenarios/email/what-is-email.pdf[Accessed 29 May 2018].
  2. Rich, K. (2013). Introduction to Ethics. [ebook]Available at: Morgan, C. (2018). Employer
  3. Aristotle. (1853). TheNicomachean Ethics of Aristotle. Lanham: Dancing Unicorn Books.
  4. Kant, I.(1886). The metaphysic of ethics. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.
  5. Morgan,C. (1999). Employer Monitoring of Employee Electronic Mail and Internet Use.[ebook] Available at:http://www.lawjournal.mcgill.ca/userfiles/other/4411992-44.Morgan.pdf[Accessed 31 May 2018].
  6. Bezek, P., Britton, S. and Curtis, R. (2001).Employer Monitoring Of Employee Internet Use And E-Mail: Nightmare OrNecessity?. [ebook] Available at:http://foleybezek.com/wp-content/uploads/art.InternetFile.pdf [Accessed 31 May2018].
  7. Ciocchetti, C. (2001). MONITORING EMPLOYEE E-MAIL: EFFICIENTWORKPLACES VS. EMPLOYEE PRIVACY. [ebook] Available at:https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1090788 [Accessed 31 May2018].
  8. Rustad, M. and Paulsson,, S. (2005). Monitoring Employee E-MailAnd Internet Usage: Avoiding The Omniscient Electronic Sweatshops: InsightsFrom Europe.. [ebook] Available at: http://lsr.nellco.org/suffolk_ip/6/[Accessed 31 May 2018].
  9. ABCNEWS (2018). Amazon employee wristbands sparkconcerns as more companies monitor workers with tech. [online] ABC News.Available at:https://abcnews.go.com/US/companies-technology-monitor-employees-sparking-privacy-concerns/story?id=53388270[Accessed 31 May 2018].
  10. BBC. (2017). The tech that tracks your movementsat work. [online] Available at:http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20170613-the-tech-that-tracks-your-movements-at-work[Accessed 31 May 2018].
  11. The Guardian. (2017). Big Brother isn’t justwatching: workplace surveillance can track your every move. [online] Availableat:https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/06/workplace-surveillance-big-brother-technology[Accessed 4 Jun. 2018].

Show Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *