Tag: State

An Employer Can Be Liable for Accessing an Employee’s Personal Email Even if the Employee Engaged in Misconduct

Over the last several years, communication via email and text has become commonplace in the workplace. Oftentimes, employees use one device for both personal and work-related communication regardless of whether that device is employee-owned or employer-provided. There is no doubt that employers may have legitimate business reasons for monitoring employee communications. For example, an employee may leave the company and the employer is concerned that she has taken confidential information or illegally solicited clients. Employers feel entitled to review data stored on employer-provided, particularly where employees are instructed that the company owns the devices and has the right to monitor the data.  As a general rule, the law supports employers here.  An employer’s zeal to snoop, however, may subject it to both civil and criminal penalties under both federal and state statutes.

The Electronic Communication Privacy Act (ECPA) and the Stored Communications Act (SCA) both govern an employer’s ability to review electronic communications. The ECPA prohibits the interception of electronic communications, and the term “interception” as used in the ECPA has been interpreted narrowly. The SCA makes it illegal to “access without authorization a facility through which electronic communication service is provided,” making it illegal to obtain access to certain communications in electronic storage. With regard to an employer’s review of employee emails sent through web-based email accounts like Gmail or Hotmail, the most frequent scenario is where the former employer is able to access the former employee’s web-based email account because the employee saved his username and password on a device provided by the employer. In these cases, courts have typically sided with the former employee and have been reluctant to punish the former employee for failing to take appropriate steps to secure their own personal information and allegedly private communications.  The former employee’s own negligence in securing personal data is not a defense for the employer.

Bottom line – an employer should seek advice before accessing an employee’s personal email account without authorization even though it has the ability to do so.

For more information on this topic please contact:

Howard Teplinsky at:

312-368-0100 or hteplinsky@lgattorneys.com.

New Cook County Wage Theft Ordinance Applicable to Cook County Employers as of May 1, 2015

On May 1, 2015, employers in Cook County will be subject to the new Cook County Wage Theft Ordinance that imposes harsh penalties on employers who violate federal or state wage laws. The purpose of the Ordinance is to protect employees from wage theft and prohibits companies and individuals found to have violated wage-payment laws from obtaining Cook County procurement contracts, business licenses, or property tax incentives for a period of five years.

An employer will face penalties under the Ordinance if it has admitted guilt or liability, or has been adjudicated guilty or liable in any judicial or administrative proceeding, of committing a repeated or willful violation of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, the Illinois Minimum Wage Act, the Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, the Illinois Employee Classification Act, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, or any comparable state statute or regulation that governs the payment of wages.

The Ordinance applies not only to business entities, but to any “person”, including a “substantial owner” or an employer. A substantial owner is defined as any person who “owns or holds a 25 percent or more percentage of interest in any business entity seeking a county privilege, including those shareholders, general or limited partners, beneficiaries and principals; except where a business entity is an individual or sole proprietorship, substantial owner means that individual or sole proprietor.”

Penalties under the Ordinance include:

  1. Ineligibility for County Contracts:  The employer will be ineligible to enter into a contract with Cook County for a period of five years from the admission of guilt, date of conviction, entry of a plea, or finding in a judicial or administrative proceeding of a violation of a wage-payment law.
  2. Ineligibility for Property Tax Incentives: The employer will be ineligible to receive any property tax incentives for a period of five years from the admission of guilt, date of conviction, entry of a plea, or finding in a judicial or administrative proceeding of a violation of a wage-payment law.
  3. Ineligibility for a Cook County Business License: The employer will be ineligible to receive a Cook County business license for a period of five years from the admission of guilt, date of conviction, entry of a plea, or finding in a judicial or administrative proceeding of a violation of a wage-payment law.

Employers who are subject to the above listed penalties may request an exception to the applicable period of ineligibility by submitting a written request to the County. Such exceptions may be granted by the County if the County finds that the exception is in the best interest of the County.

Employers in Cook County should review their wage payment policies to ensure that they are in compliance with all applicable federal and state wage-payment laws.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the Cook County Wage Theft Ordinance or your business’s wage payment policies, please contact:

Kristen E. O’Neill at:

koneill@lgattorneys.com or (312) 368-0100

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