Supreme Court Rules "Defensive Monitoring" of Employee Email Not Covered by Workers' Rights Law
In a recent decision, n. 2722/2012, handed down on February 23, 2012, the Supreme Court of Italy (Corte di Cassazione) ruled that an employer's "defensive monitoring" of an employee's email is not covered by Section 4 of the Statute of Workers' Rights (Law 300/1970). Among other things Section 4 prohibits the remote monitoring of employee activity through the installation of audiovisual equipment.
The underlying case arose out of a bank clerk's divulging of confidential information about a bank customer by email. When the bank learned of the bank clerk's conduct, his employment was terminated. The clerk argued that his dismissal was prohibited by Section 4. The bank contended that where the employer has a legitimate business interest in such monitoring, it may do so, and that the law is inapplicable. The lower courts and the Supreme Court agreed.
The Supreme Court reasoned that the term "defensive monitoring" refers to controls that are legitimately put in place to protect company assets or to detect illegal conduct on the part of employees. In this instance, the right to protect the company's assets and image prevails over any employee's right to privacy.
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