Does an employer have the right to punish employees for a private “invitation only” groupme conversation on personally owned cell phones for content?

Can he even view it without the permission of everyone involved? He was not a member of the group.

Asked on July 31, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

However he came to view it or become aware of it, the employer may punish--up to and including by termination--any employees who do not have written employment or union/collective bargaining agreements protecting their employment or limiting discipline or termination. That is because without such an agreement, an employee is an "employee at will"; and an employee at will may be terminated--or have anything "short of" termination done, such as demotion, pay or hours cut, suspension, etc.--at any time, for any reason whatsoever. Employees at will have no rights in or to their employment, so the employer may take whatever action he or she wishes, for any reason, including private conversations (in whatever media) of which the employer becomes aware.

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