Case focus: Barbulescu v Romania

On the 12th January, the European Court of Human Rights dismissed a Romanian national’s appeal against his employer for their decision to terminate his contract for using a professional Yahoo Messenger account to send personal messages to his fiancé and brother.
Mr Barbulescu (the former employee) argued that his employer breached his Article 8 right to respect his private correspondence, and that the domestic courts had failed to protect this right. The Court found that there had been no such violation because the monitoring of the account by his employer had been limited and proportionate, and that he was well within his right to check the account, which was set up solely for professional use. 
The outcome was particularly interesting, and should be a warning to employees that they shouldn’t use work time to deal with personal matters excessively. It’s not a case of employers interrogating and even spying on our personal lives, but it’s important to be aware that they could be monitored to ensure work time isn’t being misused. 
For employers, it’s crucial to note that the right to monitor employee communications during work is not a blanket one. It is vital that they ensure all of the relevant policies and procedures for monitoring are put in place and clearly stated within any employment documents. 
For any matters relating to employee litigation, please do get in touch with us.