Can Your Boss Look at Your Emails?


Through several decades, email correspondence has remained a workplace staple. The sheer convenience in drafting, sending, and storing messages has made it a very powerful tool in office communications. With that in mind, some companies may enforce email monitoring policies for purposes of security and workplace conduct.

Most employees may consider email monitoring as a breach of privacy. Understandably, it can cause a lack of trust between workers and their employers, leading to a decrease in morale. On the other hand, companies monitor and control their employees’ online activities to prevent any confidential information leaks, or even to prevent access to websites that are not safe for work.

The case against email surveillance is largely on moral grounds. From a legal standpoint, though, can your boss legally look at your emails? The answer is yes, though it varies from state to state. In ACT and NSW, monitoring is legal, but only if employees are informed of when their correspondences are being monitored. In other states or territories, the law on workplace surveillance is vague.

Note that any digital equipment, domain email addresses, or software issued to you for work purposes is considered company property. Any messages you send via company channels—even when connecting to the office Wi-Fi, for example—can be tracked and used against you. Additionally, try as you might to delete your emails, they can be recovered.

So how can you keep out of trouble? Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t browse web content that’s unsafe for work, or not work-related. Most importantly, refrain from using social media.
  • Keep your emails classy and respectful. For personal emails, don’t use the company domain. Instead, use your personal email address.
  • If your office has one, only use the lounge area Wi-Fi when browsing for personal and/or leisure reasons.

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