Garamukanwa v Solent NHS Trust: emails and an employee’s right to privacy
Following a succession of recent cases on rights to privacy regarding personal emails, Garamukanwa v Solent NHS Trust is another more recent case on this issue from April this year.
Mr Garamukanwa was a manager for the NHS Trust and formed a relationship with a colleague Ms MacLean.
He then, for some reason, began to believe that Ms MacLean had formed a relationship with another female colleague Ms Smith.
He embarked on what was a campaign of malicious harassment and stalking, which involved him sending anonymous emails.
The matter was investigated by the police who downloaded these emails from his iPhone and later disclosed them to the Trust.
These emails were used as part of the disciplinary case that resulted in him being dismissed.
Mr Garamukanwa lost his unfair dismissal case at Tribunal. But went to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) with his argument that use of the private emails amounted to a breach of his right to privacy under Article 8 of European Convention on Human Rights.
However, the EAT took the same view as the Tribunal. Even if the emails came from a private email address they had a potential impact on work and dealt in part with work related matters.
Colleagues received emails on their work email addresses and were distressed – potentially affecting their work.
It was also appropriate for the employer to question the Claimant’s judgment as a manager.
For all of these reasons, Mr Garamukanwa had no reasonable expectation of privacy.
What this means for employers
It has to be said that the ECHR only applies to public or quasi-public bodies, so a private organisation is not governed by it.
But the general principles hold good for all employers, and if private emails are relevant they can cease to be private.
It’s probably sensible to acknowledge the distinction that arises where the police obtain the emails in the first place and hand only the relevant ones to the employer.
This case would not support an employer who happened to have the ability to trawl through an individual’s private emails to see what might be found.
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