Employer read my personal text messages

(33 Posts)
wishywashywoowoo70 Sat 16-Jan-21 11:43:54

Posting on behalf of someone else to give them advice.
Person recently left their phone at work accidentally.
Someone read all of their messages and now they've been suspended as they were talking about other staff members with another staff member.
I don't think the employers should have read the messages it's not a work phone but someone else did have the password for some reason (guessing friendly colleague) 🤷🏼‍♀️
Where do they stand legally, Are employers allowed to do this?

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wishywashywoowoo70 Sat 16-Jan-21 11:54:55

Also the messages were not sent in work hours

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SomewhatBored Sat 16-Jan-21 12:03:38

Many variables here. If the phone was unlocked in good faith - e.g. to find whose it was - and then whoever unlocked it saw something disturbing in the text messages, what are they expected to do? Just ignore it? Without knowing exactly what was in the messages, it's impossible to call this one.

wishywashywoowoo70 Sat 16-Jan-21 12:20:36

I'm not sure of the exact content but it wasn't complimentary.
Surely reading someone's texts doesn't give you an idea who's phone it is?
Also even if that's the case can the employer do anything about it. It's a private message between people outside work hours.
I'd have thought it would be a bit embarrassing all round but not something that could be used to fire/suspend people.

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MilkTwoSugarsThanks Sat 16-Jan-21 12:24:44

What was in the messages?

If it's "oh X has really annoyed me today she really knows how to wind people up" then probably not.

If it was "oh X has really fucking pissed me off, ugly bitch seriously needs a good hard smack in the mouth" then yeah.

SomewhatBored Sat 16-Jan-21 12:28:42

Surely reading someone's texts doesn't give you an idea who's phone it is?

If you find a locked phone, the first thing you'd probably do to find the owner is to try to unlock it, and once it's unlocked, any recent texts will appear as notifications on the screen so you might not be able to avoid seeing them.

'Not complimentary' covers a wide spectrum and could cross the line into something that's unlawful. If, for example, the texts were racist or homophobic, that might not be something the person reading them felt they could ignore. If the texts implied a threat to someone, that might not be something that could be ignored. If the texts revealed something confidential about the company or broke GDPR, that might not be something that could be ignored.

I am guessing a disciplinary hearing is on the horizon. If your friend is in a union, now is the time to be getting advice. They could also contact ACAS or CAB to find out where they stand.

Gingernaut Sat 16-Jan-21 12:32:36

You're friend is an idiot for leaving her phone unlocked, especially with such 'incriminating' evidence on it.

SendMeHome Sat 16-Jan-21 12:36:11

It says that the phone wasn’t unlocked but another colleague knew the code...

Sharing your personal phone code is an odd decision. Is the personal phone used for work at all?

I’d agree with the PP that the content of the messages is relevant.

AliceMcK Sat 16-Jan-21 12:39:29

Given employers aren’t allowed to use what en employee writes on Facebook against them I’m assuming what the write on a personal text message on a personal phone can not be used against them either.

Maybe post on the legal board. I’d say it’s an invasion of privacy though. I use to be a privacy officer in another country and the employer would have been in trouble for doing this. I’m not up on uk privacy law though so not sure what the position would be.

wishywashywoowoo70 Sat 16-Jan-21 12:40:31

I really don't know how bad the messages are.
Knowing one of the people involved I very much doubt they'd be racist etc or any breech of GDPR.
Probably nothing worse than so and so is a cock or something.
The phone isn't used for any kind of work business at all.

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SomewhatBored Sat 16-Jan-21 12:41:23

Given employers aren’t allowed to use what en employee writes on Facebook against them

That's not true at all. Most employers nowadays have a very strict social media policy and you can absolutely be disciplined for breaching it.

wishywashywoowoo70 Sat 16-Jan-21 12:42:43

Ha ha some of these responses have made me laugh.

My first instinct was to think that's what happens when you read someone's messages. Serves you right if you see something you shouldn't.

Hopefully whoever they've got dealing with it will sort it out. I was just gobsmacked

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ChronicallyCurious Sat 16-Jan-21 12:45:00

AliceMcK

Given employers aren’t allowed to use what en employee writes on Facebook against them I’m assuming what the write on a personal text message on a personal phone can not be used against them either.

Maybe post on the legal board. I’d say it’s an invasion of privacy though. I use to be a privacy officer in another country and the employer would have been in trouble for doing this. I’m not up on uk privacy law though so not sure what the position would be.

I’ve never been at a job where the contract doesn’t have a social media clause saying that what you write online is a direct representation of yourself and CAN be used against you. I’ve seen many people lose their job due to this, particularly when I was a student working in hospitality.

Ohdoleavemealone Sat 16-Jan-21 13:12:38

If I wanted to find out the owner or the phone, I would go to their pictures or their call log, not their messages! Massive invasion of privacy but no idea if there are legal boundaries.

I would probably want to quit anyway after such a breach of respect.

LaMainDeFatima Sat 16-Jan-21 13:19:15

Was it a work phone ?

FlossieTeacakesFurCoat18 Sat 16-Jan-21 13:21:41

If their colleague / friend knew the code then they obviously knew whose phone it was...

Why did they start looking through the messages?

YesMeLady Sat 16-Jan-21 13:24:19

Has the other person been suspended too. If I found a phone I would lock it away not open it, theres no explanation for that, the person who left the phone at work would get in touch. Is there a work policy about the use of personal mobile phones during working hours.

Yuppie20 Sat 16-Jan-21 13:30:10

Don't think they can claim they didn't know who's phone it was since a colleague had to unlock it for them 😬 so there is no justification for going through the phone.
I would say you friend should speak to a lawyer, even just of them free 30 mins. Or better if she is part of a union get in contact with them.

MyGazeboisLeaking Sat 16-Jan-21 13:30:50

Does it seem odd to you that someone at work knew the phone passcode?

That is very unusual isn't it?

bluecheesefan Sat 16-Jan-21 13:33:33

MyGazeboisLeaking

Does it seem odd to you that someone at work knew the phone passcode?

That is very unusual isn't it?

I know my colleague's one, having sat beside her on numerous occasions in the past and watched her do it.

ktp100 Sat 16-Jan-21 13:35:33

So many factors affecting this - eg if the phone was locked but when touching notifications were popping up on the screen with 'BOSS is a twat' then yes, bollocking. If it was locked, unlocked by someone and then messages searched through then I really doubt they can do anything official at all. Maybe speak to them about it but nothing serious.

We are allowed to think what we want to and say what we want to to friends and family (within eg safety/confidentiality boundaries, obvs) and our phones are our own private property. If she'd put it on SM that's a different issue, but private messages should stay private.

I do think people should be cautious about slagging colleagues off to colleagues though. Relationships change in the workplace and the people you trust now may not be later.

thefirstmrsrochester Sat 16-Jan-21 13:38:50

Huge invasion of privacy. Also why the need to go rooting through text messages under the guise of identifying the owner. As an individual who had the code (odd in itself) was approached to unlock the phone, they knew damn well who the owner was from the word go. Your friend needs to contact her Union or seek legal advice.

Iwillneverbesatisfied Sat 16-Jan-21 14:45:39

This is a GDPR breach as it is personal property, personal communications and made in personal time.

The fact it was between two employees is irrelevant if, as you say, it was a personal phone and outwith company time.

Consent was not given to the opening and reading of these messages. The owner may have given someone the password but importantly, it wasn't the person who did open it, was it?

Doesn't matter how nasty the messages were. If the messages were made publicly on a public social media account then yes, suspend them. If it was a private message on a private phone then employer has not only breached GDPR but is risking unfair dismissal if dismissal happens.

Your friend needs to speak to Acas / ICO / trade union sharpish.

bluepie Sat 16-Jan-21 14:47:24

The first key here is if it's a work phone or their own phone?

wishywashywoowoo70 Sat 16-Jan-21 15:05:47

LaMainDeFatima

Was it a work phone ?


No not a work phone and not used for work.

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