One of the most common issues encountered by employers today is whether emails sent by employees are able to be used in disciplinary proceedings against them. Are they the private property of the employee or can an employer use them as evidence if they have an effect on their employees/the workplace?
In the case of Garamukanwa v Solent NHS Trust, an employer was recently held not to have breached an employee’s right to a private and family life (Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights) when they reviewed private information that belonged to the employee on the basis that the information related to work and therefore had a potential impact on the employer.
The Claimant (Mr Garamukanwa) worked as a Clinical Manager for the Respondent (Solent NHS Trust), and had formed a personal relationship with a fellow colleague, Ms Maclean.
Following the breakdown of this relationship, the Claimant then believed that Ms Maclean had started a relationship with another colleague, Ms Smith. Ms Maclean and Ms Smith subsequently received an email from the Claimant in which he advised them that unless they told their manager about their relationship, he would do it himself.
Prior to this an anonymous letter had in fact already been sent to the aforementioned manager (Mr Brown), accusing Ms Maclean and Ms Smith of ‘inappropriate sexual behaviour’ in the workplace. Mr Brown subsequently raised these concerns with Ms Maclean and Ms Smith, who denied both having a relationship and inappropriate sexual behaviour. Ms Maclean later advised Mr Brown about the email that herself and Ms Smith had previously received from the Claimant and stated that she felt threatened as a result of this.
Mr Brown therefore informally raised these concerns with the Claimant, who apologised for sending the email but denied being the person who had sent the letter to him. Ms Maclean and Ms Smith were then the subject of a vendetta which consisted of the sending of malicious emails and photos to management and other members of staff, from various anonymous email addresses. In addition a fake Facebook profile was set up and around 150 of the Respondent’s employees were added to it. It later became clear that whoever was responsible for the vendetta was following Ms Maclean and Ms Smith, and Ms Maclean believed that the Claimant was in fact stalking her.