Is the boss reading your e-mail?

Each day it becomes more apparent that e-mail and instant messages are not private. Employers are worried about liability and lawsuits so they're monitoring employee e-mail.

Their fears are not unfounded. The 2006 Workplace E-mail, Instant Messaging & Blog Survey by the American Management Association and the ePolicy Institute found that 24 percent of responding organizations have had employee e-mail subpoenaed and 15 percent have gone to court to battle lawsuits triggered by employee e-mail.

On the other side, 26 percent of employers have terminated employees for e-mail misuse and 2 percent have let employees go for misuse of IM. Even blogs are a cause of dismissal, as 2 percent of respondents reported firing workers for offensive content -- even if the blogs are not corporate-based.

As employees are encouraged to work longer and less-defined hours on company equipment, the lines between professional and personal use are becoming increasingly blurred. While organizations have gotten increasingly better about developing and communicating e-mail acceptable use policies, they are still lacking in addressing policies for IM and blogging.

The AMA found that 76 percent of the companies surveyed do have e-mail usage and content policies in place. That number drops significantly lower -- to 31 percent -- of employers that have IM policies in place. And only 9 percent have policies that address the use of blogs.

This lack of communications between employers and employees about expectations has set employees up for serious repercussions.