Who hasn’t answered a personal e-mail at work during a break or lunch break? However, the use of work tools for personal purposes is strictly forbidden. Consequently, under no circumstances may employees reply to personal e-mails, download files, feed their blogs, consult non-professional websites, access community sites, etc. on their professional workstations. But since it’s difficult to set aside one’s private life even while in the office, employers can tolerate the situation up to a certain threshold, even if the situation constitutes a risk to the company.
Two concrete examples of the use of work tools for personal purposes
In February 2009, an employee was dismissed from her company after being accused of sending 156 personal e-mails from her workstation over a two-month period. Both parties put forward their arguments before the Labour Court. For the employee, these personal messages were sent during her lunch hours. In addition, she claims that her employer violated the confidentiality of her private life, and that she was wrongfully dismissed. For the company, the emails sent were considered important and frequent. What’s more, the time spent writing and sending these personal messages encroached on working hours. The emails were only discovered by the employee during a computer virus check. In the end, the industrial tribunal ruled in favor of the company.
In another case, an employee was also dismissed for sending personal e-mails. He stored his emails on his hard disk under the name Personal. Having referred the matter to the Social Division of the French Supreme Court (Cour de cassation), the latter ruled that an employee is entitled to respect for the privacy of his private life, even when he is at work. After invoking article 9 of the French Civil Code, article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and article L. 120-2 of the French Labor Code, the employee won his case before the Cour de cassation.
Protection of company data and work tools
To better limit the use of IT tools in the workplace and safeguard company data, the introduction of a security charter is highly recommended. The purpose of this document is to formalize the use of IT in the company. Its implementation requires the coordination of several corporate entities: the information systems security manager, all employees, the legal department, the human resources department and the corporate communications department.
The safety charter has several objectives. Its main purpose is to inform employees of practices prohibited by the company. In addition, the charter can limit the risk of computer tools being infected by viruses or malware. Having been informed, employees are liable to prosecution if they wilfully infringe the company’s safety charter.