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When was the last time you updated your BYOD policy?

Are you asking yourself, “What is a BYOD Policy and why do we need one?” In environments where individuals are wired 24/7 and are using personal smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc. for work, electronic communications policies, including a “Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)” policy, are necessary both to address the work-related use of electronic devices and to protect the employer’s right to manage such use.

A recent Ohio District Court opinion serves as a reminder for employers to have well-developed electronic communications policies. In Lazette v. Kulmatycki and Cellco Partnership d/b/a/ Verizon Wireless, No. 3:12-cv-02416 (N.D. Ohio June 5, 2013), Lazette, a former Verizon employee, sued both Verizon and her supervisor (Kulmatycki) alleging, in part, a violation of the federal Stored Communications Act (“SCA”). The Act prohibits unauthorized access to a “facility through which an electronic communication is provided.” Lazette alleged that when she left Verizon’s employment and returned her company-issued electronic device – which she had for business and personal use – Kulmatycki accessed her personal e-mail account and, without her knowledge or authorization, read 48,000 emails.

Even though the case ultimately settled before the court had the opportunity to rule on the merits of Lazette’s claims, troublesome for employers (and supervisors) is the court’s recognition of a potential claim against both Verizon and Kulmatycki under the SCA. This holding – which applies with equal force to employers accessing an employee’s personal device used for work – reinforces the critical need for employers to have electronic communications policies and procedures in place, including a BYOD policy, which expressly authorize employer access to electronic information on both company-issued devices and personal devices used for work. Simply put, because an employer can access personal email accounts, social media, etc., does not mean it has a right to do so absent prior authorization.

If you would like assistance creating or reviewing electronic communications policies for legal compliance or, if you have questions about how to lawfully access employees’ electronic communications, please contact your Elarbee Thompson attorney for further discussion.

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