The September 5, 2017, decision of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Bărbulescu v Romania (Bărbulescu) has interrupted a recent trend toward limiting privacy in the European workplace. The Bărbulescu decision held that a Romanian employee’s legally protected right to privacy was violated when his employer monitored personal messages he sent from a company account.
This case stemmed from a Romanian company’s dismissal of Mr. Bărbulescu, a sales engineer, for using his company Yahoo Messenger account (the Account) for personal purposes. The engineer set up the Account at his company’s request to respond to customer inquiries and allegedly signed a company notice acknowledging that he was to use it only for work-related communications, but actually used it, in part, for personal communications with his fiancée and brother. The company later informed Mr. Bărbulescu that his communications were being monitored, and it believed that he was using the Account in part for personal purposes. The engineer responded to his employer in writing, stating he used the Account only for work-related purposes. Following this written representation, the company presented Mr. Bărbulescu with a 45-page transcript of his personal conversations and terminated him for breaching company policies. Continue Reading