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Employer Violates the Stored Communications Act by Accessing Private Emails Stored on Former Employee’s Blackberry

In today’s ever-changing world of electronic communications and social media, an employee’s right to privacy in the workplace continues to be a hot topic. More and more employees are faced with the prospect of their employers accessing their private e-mails, and social media accounts. In the recent case of Lazette v. Kulmatycki, et al., the Northern District of Ohio dealt with the question of whether an employer violates the federal Stored Communications Act (“SCA”) by reading private e-mails stored on a former employee’s Blackberry. The employer argued that because it owned the Blackberry device, and the former employee failed to erase her Gmail account before returning it, the company did not violate the SCA when the former employee’s supervisor read her private e-mails. The court rejected the company’s arguments holding that the employer did in fact violate the SCA. Specifically, the court found that “the mere fact that [the supervisor] used a company-owned Blackberry to access the [former employee’s] e-mails does not mean that he acted with authorization when he did so.” Moreover, even though the employee may have been negligent by failing to delete her Gmail account from the Blackberry before returning it, the court reasoned that “negligence is, however, not the same as approval, much less authorization.”