Legality of H.R. mailbox monitoring?

By nogov ·
Have a question for all the IT veterans on here:
The Owner of the company I work for recently asked via my manager if he could be given a way to view the entire inbox of the employee in charge of Human Resources, without her knowing. I told him yes and setup through our domain/exchange the permissions so he could add her mailbox to his outlook. Recently, very "out of the blue" this HR employee asked if I had done anything to her email, to which I replied "no", as I was sworn to secrecy by my manager and the guy signing the checks.... so the questions:

1. Is anything I did illegal since she is in charge of H.R.? I assume not since a corporate mailbox should be treated as if it is being monitored anyway, especially if it is H.R. related email.
2. Is there any way for the H.R. employee to somehow figure out her mailbox had been modified? I figure no, unless for some reason the company Owner somehow sent an email using her mailbox or somehow let on that he could read her email in conversation, etc.

Thanks guys!

Edit - Thanks everyone for your replies so far. I've read them all and am going to gingerly approach the topic with my manager soon, hopefully I'll be able to just remove the outlook permissions and find a better tool through google for monitoring. Although I won't do a thing without written authorization :) Thanks again!

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All Answers

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Did you get anything in writing from the company owner

that gave you permission to monitor the employee in question? If not, then you should do so NOW! Without that, then you could end up being the scapegoat for possible retributions.
edit to add:
Of course, IF (a big if) it is a written company policy that employee communications can be monitored, you may be on safe ground. Still, I would ask for written authorization.

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Reponse To Answer

by nogov In reply to Did you get anything in w ...

No, I went back to my IT manager and expressed my concerns and he insisted that I have done nothing wrong, but nothing in writing from him or the company owner. We do expressly say in our employee handbook and in the login messages that all communications may be monitored without notice for any reason. The typical boiler-plate stuff.

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it kinda teeters on

by PurpleSkys In reply to Legality of H.R. mailbox ...

ethical and moral...companies may consider the HR inbox company property hence, any and/or all email may be company property. If the HR manager is using company property for personal use, it can be an issue.

Can an employee tell? If something were possibly deleted or removed from their inbox, quite likely. Sometimes it's just a matter of something being opened when it hadn't been before or the contents of something not being the same as before.

I would still do as Wiz suggested; it covers your butt should someone start asking questions.

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Reponse To Answer

by nogov In reply to it kinda teeters on

You have a very good point about read/unread messages in the inbox I stupidly had not thought of that.

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Federal law allows auditing of e-mail

by Charles Bundy In reply to Legality of H.R. mailbox ...

under certain circumstances. But as wizard said if there is no policy informing employees that the company can (but is not obliged) to monitor e-mails actions taken may open up the owner (and yourself) to civil privacy suits.

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In the past have worked on investigations like this.

by robo_dev In reply to Legality of H.R. mailbox ...

The main thing is to never open an unopened email, or you flip the read-bit, and the person notices that. I have been 'found out' once and it was not pretty.

In Outlook, for example, if you just click on an email, it shows that it has been read, and if it's Monday morning and random marketing messages sent on Sunday have already been read, something is up.

Or worse, if the sender has receipt confirmation turned on, then there is an email sent from the suspect to whoever sent the original email if it's opened. Outlook prompts you for this, but I think Notes does not.

There is nothing illegal about this...if you work for a company, anything that happens on the company computers is fair game.

Read your employment policy very carefully; most of them say you have no right to privacy.

The most important thing is to CYA and maintain evidence that you were acting in your official capacity and doing what the boss asked you to do.

If, by chance, the HR lady got fired or prosecuted for something, you want her suing the company, not you.

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Reponse To Answer

by OH Smeg Moderator In reply to In the past have worked o ...

And in the event of any Legal Action buy allowing others to have direct access to the Mail Box you have broken the Chain of Evidence and have what the courts will rule as Effectively destroying or at best making any Evidence that you want to rely upon as Unusable as you can not guarantee that the person who was supposed to get/send the E Mail actually did it and not the person who you gave access to.


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What everyone else said and ....

by richardreynoldsus In reply to Legality of H.R. mailbox ...

I would Never use outlook to do the spying, using other software( google is your friend ) you can download without marking it read, you can have a downloaded copy for later, return receipts are ignored, and more importantly, if its not outlook the bossman wont unintentionally send from the wrong account. KISS, is not just for IT!!!

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Reponse To Answer

by nogov In reply to What everyone else said a ...
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Too late, you are already culpable!

by fredden In reply to Legality of H.R. mailbox ...

You can try and ask the boss for written authorisation after the fact, but the moment you do, he will realise there is an ***-covering issue and will hedge instead. Timing is everything, should have got the audit trail beforehand! And if he is the kind of weasel who needs to go to this level rather than dealing with the issue directly, then its odds-on he will be happy to stitch you up.

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