Restrictions in the Workplace
Employers can prohibit the private use of the Internet and social media during working hours. If Internet is paid by the employer, the employer can further prohibit the private use of the Internet on a general basis (except for urgent emergencies). A prohibition of private use of the Internet and social media is recommended from both employment and data privacy law perspective.
Employers can also request that private email correspondence be marked as ‘private’, stating that correspondence not marked as such can be accessed freely by the employer. However, if an employer becomes aware that unmarked emails contain private messages, the employer must refrain from inspecting them.
Can the employer monitor, access, review the employee’s electronic communications?
There are several and strong restrictions for employers if they want to monitor, access, review the employee’s electronic communication. Such restrictions are regulated in data privacy laws and general rules of the Austrian Civil Code.
Employers who wish to systematically monitor or control employees in the workplace must obtain prior approval from the relevant works council or, absent a works council, the consent of each affected employee if the control measure might affect human dignity. Measures which might effectively violate human dignity (e.g. ongoing video surveillance of the concrete workplace of an employee) are prohibited, regardless of any consent given by the works council or employees.
Depending on the concrete circumstances of the case and after the employer has carefully evaluated the facts, the employer is entitled to immediately dismiss the employee. Further, the employer is entitled to claim compensation from the employee. According to data protection and criminal law provisions the employee can be fined.