Calif. E-mail Bill Awaits Gov. Davis’ Decision

September 5, 2001

A bill that would prevent employers from reading employees’ communications on work e-mail addresses passed the California State Assembly and now awaits Gov. Gray Davis’ signature.

The bill, originally sponsored in the State Senate by Debra Bowen, passed the Assembly in a 43-22 vote.

The legislation, while seen as a move in favor of privacy rights, allows employee e-mail monitoring if the worker’s business says such monitoring is company policy. Bowen said that the bill is not designed to allow employees to spend all their time online at work indulging in personal activities, but simply extends privacy policies that already apply to phone use in California to the Internet.

The Bowen bill, SB 147, creates a right-to-know statute that approximates the current California Public Utilities Commission regulation that employers must tell their workers when their telephone conversations are recorded or monitored.

Bowen in her statement cited statistics published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) that show that 74 percent of U.S. companies monitor their workers’ Internet use, while 72 percent read their e-mail.

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