I know that generally in jobs where you have access to a computer and the internet any storage device plugged into a company PC or any online account you access on a company PC with the company's internet connection can be subject to monitoring and examination.

However recently I was asked to hand over my personal Mobile Phone so that my employer could view text messages and files which I do not use for work, I may use at work for emergency calls, does not get connected to a company PC (rather I recharge via a battery pack I carry with me) and no one except my employer has the number for (only because he requested it as a secondary call number in case he could not reach my landline).

I was told I had to allow this. when I tried to bring up the contract I signed and pointed out the same thing I mentioned in the first paragraph my employer said

searching the contents of a mobile is the same as searching though your bag to see if you have stolen any company property, which is outlined in your contract. if you continue to refuse you're employment here may be subject to termination.

I can understand bags but electronic devices can obtain anything unless it's been transmitted to it via some sort of connection which my phone has made none. I also carry a laptop which I use by itself on it's own battery because it's a hassle to get the cable around to a powerpoint but now I am afraid that it might be targeted too, while I have nothing to hide which could see me get into trouble professionally I have some erotic fiction on my laptop I write at home, while i wouldn't be embarrassed if my employer read it i suspect he will misunderstand because of their content and as I am a casual employee I can be terminated without notice.

I don't even know why this has started happening as I was sick the day before. so I am wondering, in Australia can an employee be terminated for refusing to allow an employer to search though their phone (or laptop) that has had no connection to any company resource?

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    I'm in Australia, and this sounds like it may be exceeding their mandate. As far as I'm aware, even the police must show cause and have a warrant before they can search your property. However, I am not a lawyer, and I strongly recommend that you talk to one to see where you stand. – Jane S Jan 21 '16 at 10:34
  • Can information count as "company property" in your line of work? Then you don't need to plug your phone, for example, you could have taken a picture of a screen or (if you don't have a camera) copied some info in a text message. Note that this is only a possible explanation for his request, it does not mean that it is or isn't legal. – T. Verron Jan 21 '16 at 10:35
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    You need the advice of a lawyer, not some random strangers on the internet, so voting to close as off topic. – The Wandering Dev Manager Jan 21 '16 at 10:41
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    @JaneS Checks and balances on police investigations are typically much more strict than what the general public can get away with. The police also do that without permission, while the issue here is whether a company can make giving permission a condition of employment. An employee can always refuse to show his phone; whether his company can fire him over that refusal is a question for the lawyers. – Lilienthal Jan 21 '16 at 12:25
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    @JaneS I imagine it would be but I was speaking of a general trend in most Western countries. And the American and Australian legal systems do share a common ancestor. As an example: just like on TV Australian police require a warrant to search your phone. – Lilienthal Jan 21 '16 at 12:57

You could suggest to your employer that you will put the phone in a sealed bag and hand it over to your employer, that you will press criminal charges if that bag is opened without your permission, that you will talk to a lawyer specialising in employment law, and that you expect your employer to pay the cost of the lawyer.

And if anyone other than you looks at the phone, it will not be your employer, but an independent third party which is given a list of items to look for, to which you agree, and which will under no circumstances tell the employer anything about the contents of the phone except whether these items are present or not.

The "it's not different from searching your bag" is complete and utter nonsense. For example, in the USA the police isn't allowed to search the contents of your phone anymore without a warrant, while they can be allowed to search your bag - exactly because your phone can contain everything about your private life.

  • (1) US rules aren't particularly relevant in Australia (2) There are generally completely different sets of rules for what the state, in its position of power, can do without a person's consent - vs. what conditions a person can voluntarily agree to as a condition of employment. – Andrew Medico Apr 9 '16 at 18:42

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