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Monitoring of employee’s e-mails was appropriate

An Indian and Northern Affairs employee complained that the institution did not have the authority to restore 35 months of the employee’s e-mails and then review all of the messages contained in the departmental account. The employee alleged that as a result of the department’s actions, the employee’s personal information was improperly accessed.

The employee was the subject of an administrative investigation into allegations that the employee was misusing the department’s network.

During the course of its investigation into the complainant’s actions, the institution restored the complainant’s e-mail account and found pornographic e-mails.

Later, the employee received a copy of the Terms of Reference for the administrative investigation and noted that it was not signed. The employee contended that, as the document was not signed, the institution had no authority to restore or read the e-mails. The employee also contended that there should have been notification of the insitution’s actions.

Treasury Board’s policy states that if an institution reasonably suspects that an individual is misusing a department’s network it must refer the matter for further investigation and action which may involve special monitoring and/or reading the contents of an individual’s e-mails.

Indian and Northern Affairs policy states that management is permitted to have access to an employee’ e-mail in the course of any investigation relating to impropriety, security breaches, violation of a law or infringement of departmental policies.

Although the Terms of Reference were not signed and the employee was not advised of the institution’s actions, Indian and Northern Affairs did not violate Treasury Board’s policy on network use or the employee’s privacy rights. Under the Privacy Act, institutions may use personal information for the purpose for which it was obtained or compiled or for a use consistent with that purpose. In this case, the information gathered from the employee’s e-mail account was used solely for the purpose of the institution’s administrative investigation.

The complaint was not well-founded.

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