Pervasive Internet and social media use in the workplace has left employers questioning what rights they have to access and review employees' online activity using company computers. Employment attorneys are simultaneously exploring how such information can be used to defend companies in litigation. While employee privacy concerns may not necessarily preclude employers from accessing personal information stored on an employee's work computer, a recent decision from New Jersey's highest state court highlights that such information may still be off limits if it is protected by the attorney-client privilege.
The plaintiff in Stengart v. Loving Care Agency, Inc. sued her former employer for employment discrimination. Subsequently the company had a forensic expert image the hard drive of the plaintiff's company-issued laptop to preserve the electronic evidence for discovery purposes. Among the retrieved images were e-mails sent and received from the plaintiff's personal Yahoo account, including e-mail exchanges with her attorney in the case.