Focus on Employment and Labour, October 2012 - Canada's Highest Court Rules on Employee Privacy Rights over Work Computer

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In this issue of Focus on Employment and Labour, FMC's Andrea Raso Amer and Eric Sherbine present their article "Canada's Highest Court Rules on Employee Privacy Rights over Work Computer".

Canada's Highest Court Rules on Employee Privacy Rights over Work Computer

Introduction -

In R. v. Cole, 2012 SCC 53, the Supreme Court of Canada held that a warrantless search and seizure by police of a teacher’s employer-issued computer containing sexually explicit images of a female student were in violation of the teacher’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In a time when employers are increasingly allowing (either explicitly or implicitly) employees to use employer-issued laptop computers, smart phones, and other digital devices for their own personal use, this decision, as summarized below, offers a number of important lessons.

Background -

The accused, Richard Cole, was a high school computer science teacher in north eastern Ontario who also had “supervisory duties” with regards to the school’s computer network. This meant that Mr. Cole had certain domain administrative rights which gave him access to the network server and all of the computers within the school that used the server, including student laptops.

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