Experts: Employer has right to open personal mail sent to workers

From time to time, my boss opens mail addressed to me that comes into the office. Most of the time, the mail is of a professional nature. sometimes my parents and friends send me a letter or card to brighten my day, since I work 60 hours a week. my boss, who receives mail from our department, says that he has the right to open any mail that comes to the company, regardless of who it is addressed to, professional or personal. Is right? feels like an invasion of privacy.

Ty Frankel, attorney with Bonnett Fairbourn, Friedman & Balint

Ty Frankel

bonnett fairbourn,

friedman & balint

Like you, many employees often receive personal items in the mail at work. your employer has the right to open them if they are addressed to you at your work address. the United States. The postal service’s website states that mail is delivered to an organization if it is addressed to the organization itself, to a person by name or title at the organization’s address, or to a former employee at the organization’s address.

While it is legal for an employer to open personal mail addressed to an employee, there are common law privacy claims that employers should be aware of, such as “intrusion into seclusion” and “public disclosure of a private act.”

If an employer intentionally intrudes on the private affairs or concerns of employees, the employer may be held liable for the invasion of privacy if the intrusion is highly offensive to a reasonable person. An employee could also file a claim if the employer made a private matter public and the act is highly offensive to a reasonable person and was not a legitimate public concern.

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therefore, it is best practice for your employer to ensure that the mail is opened for a legitimate business reason. To that end, employers could advise employees not to send personal mail to their work address because the company may open it and, if it is opened, it is the safest practice for the company to keep personal information private discovered by reading the mail. of the employee.

Laura Lawless Robertson, attorney with Squire Patton Boggs in Phoenix

Laura Lawless Robertson

squire patton boggs

Your boss is right. Although federal law prohibits obstruction of mail delivery, according to the us. postal service, mail is delivered when it arrives at your place of business, even if it is addressed to you directly, and even if it is marked “personal” or “confidential.” As a result, your boss is not violating federal law if he opens personal mail addressed to you at the office. There are also no state laws that prevent your boss from opening your mail.

however, intercepting your personal mail may violate your common right to privacy. A possible claim, “intrusion into privacy,” can be made when an employer intrudes on an employee’s privacy or privacy in a way that a reasonable person would find highly offensive. If the envelopes are addressed to you at your employer’s address with no other indication as to the private nature of the communications inside, your boss’s conduct may not rise to the level of “intrusion into privacy.”

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Another possible claim, “public disclosure of a private fact,” can arise when your employer publicly discloses a private fact about you in a way that a reasonable person would find highly offensive. For example, if your boss opened your mail at work and discovered medical test results inside, which he then shared with his co-workers, this may be enough to file a claim. These are very fact-intensive statements.

Best practice is to tell your friends and family not to send any mail to the office and instead send messages of support to your home.

compiled by georgann yara. I have a question? email it to

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