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Updated: 4/11/2007 10:26 am Published: 4/11/2007 10:26 am

With e-mail becoming an increasingly popular and efficient method of communication in the workplace, many employers have become concerned with employees abusing their privilege. For instance, some feel that the use of e-mail for personal reasons during business hours can affect productivity and performance. Others have become concerned with employees using e-mail to exchange inappropriate racist and discriminatory messages or to leak company secrets to competitors. To keep e-mail from being used inappropriately and excessively, companies can and may choose to monitor their e-mail system and discipline employees accordingly if they find abuses taking place. You may think such actions are an invasion of your privacy and that any use of e-mail during work hours, no matter what the reason, is not the business of your employer. Unfortunately, the case is not so. Since an e-mail system is the property of employers, they have the right to monitor and review its contents. Many employers choose to do so not only to keep e-mail from being used for non-business reasons, but also to investigate and prevent illegal activities and to evaluate employee performance. Typically, messages sent within the company as well as those sent and received from outside the company can all be subject to monitoring by your employer. Even messages that you've deleted can be retrieved intact. Furthermore, anyone with access and the right equipment can review your-email, including the company's computer administrator. Consequently, it's strongly recommended that you treat your e-mail system at work as you would your business phone. Refrain from sending messages that would make you feel uncomfortable if your co-worker or your employer read it. Generally, employers should inform their employees of e-mail monitoring through personnel manuals and published policy statements.

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