Can boss look at my paycheck?

Q. I work in a medium-sized company that outsources its payroll services. Last week our boss opened a co-worker's check. He said he wanted to see if the amount was correct. The woman complained to our assistant manager, who in turn mentioned it to the boss. He replied, “I can open anyone's check.” We are all upset. Is this legal?

In this age of identity theft, Internet scams and computer hacking, concerns about privacy have been heightened, said Alan Sklover, senior partner of Sklover & Donath in Manhattan.

“Legal issues of personal privacy of employees at work are more common than ever,” said Sklover, who represents employees.

In this instance, though, he sides with your employer.

“Because the information the boss obtained was company information,” he said, “and because he had a justifiable reason to want to know that information, his opening a paycheck does not seem to be unreasonably intrusive.”

But that intrusiveness has its limits:

“If the boss opened up the employee's pocketbook and searched through her wallet for that same information, the employee would have a strong case,” he said.

Courts seem to be seeking a “reasonable middle ground” to balance the workplace privacy concerns of employers and employees, Sklover said.