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Employees should be cautious when using work email, Oklahoma attorney says

Q&A with Susan B. Loving, with Lester, Loving & Davies
by Paula Burkes Published: September 19, 2012
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Q&A with Susan B. Loving

Be cautious using work email

Q: Is it wise for employees who suspect they may be fired to use their work email to communicate with their attorneys?

A: You should certainly be extremely cautious in communicating with your attorney through any email account to which any others could have access. You would be well-advised to cease all email activity from any computer other than your own, and any email account others may have access to.

Q: What about attorney/client privilege?

A: In deciding whether attorney-client communications through an employer's computer are protected from disclosure, courts generally look at four factors: whether the employer has a policy banning personal or other uses of employer-provided computers; whether the company monitors the general use of employee computers, and/or email; whether the computer is shared with others and if the password is confidential; and whether the employee is aware of these use and monitoring policies. Another issue is whether the employee is using his or her employer-based email address, or a separate web-based address, such as hotmail. Many employees believe if they use a separate email address, their communications are protected, even if they occur at work on an employer-provided computer. And in some instances, this does make a difference. If the employer's policy is not clear on this issue, a court might find the employee had a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, this area of law is not clear, thus caution is advised.

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by Paula Burkes
Reporter
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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