Restrictions in the Workplace
The employer is free to restrict the employee’s use of Internet and social media, as long as the restriction is not against any agreements between the employee and the employer, or against any statutes of the company. In addition, the restriction must have an objectively justified reason. It is not common to restrict the employee’s Internet use in general, since the Internet is necessary for most work. However, it is quite common that the use of social media can be restricted.
Can the employer monitor, access, review the employee’s electronic communications?
The employer’s right to monitor, access and review the employee’s electronic communications is restricted to the employee’s e-mail account given by the employer for work related purposes, the employee’s personal areas in the company’s data network, and other electronic equipment the employer has provided for the employee to use in his or her work. The restrictions apply to both current and past employees in the company.
The employer may only access information from such mentioned places when it is necessary to ensure the daily management or other legitimate interests of the undertaking, or when the employer has a justified reason to suspect the employee’s misuse of his or her work e-mail account, or other work related electronic equipment, which constitutes a severe breach of the employee’s duties in the employment relationship, or that may constitute a reason for dismissal of the employee without a notice period, or termination with a notice period. The employer may not monitor the employee’s use of electronic equipment, hereby the Internet use, unless the aim of such monitoring is to either administrate the undertaking’s computer network, or to look for, or investigate, security issues in the network.
Employee’s Use of Social Media to Disparage the Employer or Divulge Confidential Information
Whether the employee is free to disparage the employer in social media is a question of whether or not his/her claims fall under freedom of speech. The freedom of speech is regulated in the Norwegian constitution. The freedom of speech gives the right to communicate anything that is not prohibited by any other laws – such as the employee’s obligation to be loyal to his employer and not say or do anything that is untrue or will harm the employer in an unfair way.
The employee is, in general, free to use social media outside working hours as he or she pleases, and the employer cannot set any restrictions as such. On the other hand, the employee is obligated not to reveal any confidential information that belongs to the company, and this includes using social media to reveal this kind of information. The revelation of confidential information might constitute a breach of contract that may result in termination of the employment. If the breach of confidentiality has caused a financial loss, it may carry liability for damages. Unauthorised revelation of trade secrets is also a legal offence.