7

Take for example the following clause: "You must only use the Company’s property, including but not limited to computers, email, internet, intranet, instant messaging software and fax, for the sole purpose of fulfilling you employment duties to the Company. Any unauthorised or inappropriate internet, intranet or email use is strictly prohibited and failure to comply with these provisions may be treated as serious misconduct"

I'm pretty sure that it isn't enforced quite that strictly and that it has just been added into the contract boiler plate. Is it worth challenging clauses like this or is it best just to ignore them since the chance of it having an effect is minimal and challenging clauses may make you look difficult?

  • What are you going to say when they ask you why? Do you really want to use their equipment for personal things and/or just want to call them out on their lax enforcement? – user8365 Dec 8 '13 at 21:49
  • @JeffO: Haven't signed it yet – Anon Dec 9 '13 at 1:38
  • @Casebash - you would ask them to change it before you sign, so what are you prepared to say when they ask why? – user8365 Dec 9 '13 at 19:05
  • Related but not duplicate. – jmac Dec 10 '13 at 2:04
  • In which country are you? In some European countries, what might treated as a serious misconduct is defined by statutes and you can sign contracts that say otherwise as the relevant clauses are not enforceable and would be struck down by the courts, if it comes down to it. Employees specifically do not need to raise the fact that a clause is illegal before signing the contract, which will still stand and should be interpreted in their favour. – Relaxed Dec 10 '13 at 23:52
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With the usual disclaimer that SE can't provide legal advice, these things are in there to protect the employer/company from stockholder or regulator charges that it left itself open to abuse. If you are caught viewing porn, you're in violation, and they can get rid of you though simple procedures. Without those clauses, discharge would be far more involved (and expensive).

Common sense (good luck with that) suggests that the company will act when it perceives material risks. This would suggest (note nothing here is absolute) that reading email from your personal account isn't likely to bother anyone, but spending an hour per day browsing and updating social media is probably 'overboard'. A typical juror with a day job would probably expect to be able to read his/her personal email, but might perceive a co-worker using social media heavily as a 'slacker'.

You would have to view your behavior in the context of it's effects on co-worker morale, security risks, bandwidth consumption, and corporate confidentiality. If you're putting any of that to the test, you'll most likely be escorted to the front door.

In that context, challenging it is likely to keep you from gaining employment - while your perception is that this could be used by managers for harassment, the alternative is that workers could be running torrent sites off their PCs with no concern for their co-workers or company's effectiveness.

  • The caveat being that anything you do with your employers equipment probably belongs to them, and they definitely have the right to know what it is. So if you log into (say) your internet banking you've broken two contracts - your employer's one above, and your bank's one that you don't disclose your login details. More likely to become obvious when your employer grabs your facebook password out of the logs and deletes something they object to off your facebook feed – Móż Dec 8 '13 at 5:27
  • On that note, many company IT systems have a company root certificate in all your browsers so they can silently MitM your "secure" sessions, specifically to catch the "https:myporn.com" type browsing. – Móż Dec 8 '13 at 5:31
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    @Ӎσᶎ Employment contracts aside, at least in the jurisdiction where I live, a company grabbing a Facebook password out of the logs and logging into someone's account to do anything would be decimated in the courts. In most of the western world that is illegal. – MrFox Dec 9 '13 at 20:16
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Challenge clauses that are important to you.

Personal use of equipment is not important. Usually people check personal e-mail and facebook at work and it's technically a violation but is rarely enforced unless abused (which does happen too). It's not worth challenging trivial things like this.

Contrast that with company ownership of all ideas you have while employed whether they are related to your job or occur to you while at work, which is a common clause in many tech contracts. Also think about restrictions on your ability to have a part time job, including part-time self employment or contracting work, which is also common in the tech industry. Finally look at non-compete clauses which can vary greatly by how narrow or broad they are.

I've seen all of these and successfully challenged them and had annotations added to my contracts with specific allowances since I felt it was more important to have these freedoms than to have that particular job. In every case I did explain why it was important to me and have specific scenarios and examples that were technically in violation but caused the company no harm.

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