The extent of an employee's right to employment privacy is currently a fairly unsettled area of the law. Technically there is no federal law guaranteeing a right to workplace privacy, and for private sector jobs, it can generally be assumed that an employer is free to monitor employees at will. Internal employment privacy policies or union contracts may provide exceptions to this rule, but those rights are generally not guaranteed by statute. This, along with widely-available technologies that are capable of effectively monitoring all internet, phone, and email use, has given employers the ability to review nearly all the electronic communications that happen in the work place.

However, this does not mean that employees have no workplace privacy rights in the real world. Federal case law distinguishes between "monitoring" and "searching", which means that while employers can monitor freely, they cannot search areas where employees have a "reasonable expectation of privacy". Courts have had some difficulty creating a hard and fast rule about what types of searches are reasonable in the workplace environment, but it can generally be said that if the purpose of the search is to protect a legitimate business interest, and the search does not arbitrarily single out some employees unfairly, then it is probably legal.