Texting at workplace? You could lose your job!

Indulging in Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube or even sending a harmless personal text on your work device is now an offense that can lead to you losing your job, so a Romanian engineer has learnt the hard way.

The engineer in question was caught sending messages to his wife and brother on Yahoo Messenger from his work device in 2007 and his job was promptly terminated. The European Court of Human Rights upheld his employer's decision, stating that devices given to you by your employer are strictly for professional use and your bosses have the right to check how these devices are being used.

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"The employer acted within its disciplinary powers since, as the domestic courts found, it had accessed the Yahoo Messenger account on the assumption that the information in question had been related to professional activities and that such access had therefore been legitimate. The court sees no reason to question these findings," said the verdict.

It's not "unreasonable that an employer would want to verify that employees were completing their professional tasks during working hours," it added.

However, if you choose to be discreet and use your personal phone or tablet to text your friends, your employer will have no right to snoop in. To ensure that the ruling isn't abused, the judges ordered for a new policy to be drafted that clearly states what information employers can collect and what they cannot.

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The ruling is now applicable in all EU countries that have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, including Britain. It's quite important a judgment for those who would treat their work devices as their personal ones as well and who would protest that their privacy has been breached as soon as their employers start looking.

At the same time, if you've just joined a new firm and they've given you a work device, make sure you read the policies you've signed up for. This is because if the policies don't forbid you from messaging your wife, then you won't be at fault.

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