“That’s Just Not Acceptable”–Acceptable Use Policies in the Workplace

Posted: March 25, 2010 | Last Updated: February 06, 2016

Posted: March 25, 2010

Written by: Adam Herstein

Have you caught someone at work surfing the Internet—maybe buying something, updating their Facebook page or paying a bill?  Maybe that ‘someone’ was you!  Have you ever stopped to think if that ‘someone’ is allowed to do this at work?

An acceptable use policy (AUP) is a written policy, enacted by an employer and agreed to by an employee, setting out the allowable workplace uses of the company’s computer systems (hardware and software) and the Internet.

AUPs are good for both employers and employees.  They tell employees how to conduct themselves using the company’s computer systems.  For employers and managers, it gives them a tool to act on inappropriate conduct under the AUP.

Here are some things to think about in preparing an AUP:

  1.  I see you:  An AUP should be clear about when and how use of the company’s computer systems may be monitored, as well as what communications and uses are prohibited.  Employees should be reminded that if they access the company’s computer systems using a password, their communications are still subject to monitoring.
  2.   It’s personal:  An AUP should be clear about whether employees may use the system for personal use.  If personal use is allowed, the AUP should set out the limits to such personal use. 
  3.  Things change:  The Internet and technology are constantly changing.  An AUP should state the employer has the right to unilaterally change the AUP, with notice to the employee.
  4. Follow through:  Once developed, an AUP should be implemented and followed.  It’s best practice to have each employee agree, in writing, to abide by the AUP, including an acknowledgment that a breach of the AUP may result in discipline, including termination.

 While this post is not exhaustive, it should help you in figuring out what is acceptable for your workplace systems.

Please contact Adam Herstein by email or call 204-956-3523 if you have any questions about this, or any other legal matters.