Stengart v. Loving Care

Appelate Decision in Stengart v. Loving Care


Factual Background:

The company provided Stengart with a laptop computer and a work email address. Prior to her resignation, plaintiff communicated with her attorneys, Budd Larner, P.C., by email about an anticipated suit against the company, and using the work-issued laptop but through her personal, web-based, password-protected Yahoo email account. After Stengart filed suit, the company extracted a forensic image of the hard drive from plaintiff’s computer. In reviewing plaintiff’s Internet browsing history, an attorney discovered numerous communications between Stengart and her attorney from the time period prior to her resignation from employment with Stengart.

I found it strange that the email from a web-based email account would be stored on the local computer. I am going to guess that it was attachments to the email that ended up stored on the computer in a temporary file and not the email itself.

Company Position:

According to the decision, the company’s policy may not have been clearly distributed and applied. There was some factual disputes about whether the company had ever adopted or distributed such a policy. There was a further dispute that even if the policy was put in place as to whether it applied to executives like Stengart.


In the end the company’s position didn’t matter and the court assumed the policy was in place. Instead, the court took a harsh position.

It seems that New Jersey courts are now taking the position that a company cannot read an employee’s personal e-mail, even when the employer has a policy stating that the employee has no reasonable expectation of privacy. The exception to this rule would be when the company needs to know the content of the e-mail to determine whether the employee broke the law or violated company policy.

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Reference Info:Decision | State, 3rd Circuit, New Jersey | United States

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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