There are many reasons for having personal mail delivered to your workplace. Perhaps you do not want a package left by your apartment door while you are not there, or maybe you want to order a gift and do not want a family member to know. If you have the mail delivered to your workplace, then you need to know the U.S. Post office’s rules and your company’s policies for the mail.
The official policy of the United States Postal Service is mail addressed to an organization is mail for that organization, regardless of whose name is on the package or envelope. The only responsibility of the post office is to deliver the mail to the organization. Once that delivery is made, the handling of the mail is up to the organization. Therefore, the organization -- your employer -- has the legal right to open all mail that is delivered to it.
While a company has the right to open all mail, if and how it does so is a matter of company policy. Some may have all mail opened in the mailroom, while others may distribute it to division heads. However personal mail is handled, it must be done with consistency. An employer can open mail but cannot block its delivery, destroy it or open it simply to snoop -- all of these could constitute federal crimes. Some personal mail may require special treatment. Mail that is obviously health-related may be handled differently, but it is still within the right of the employer to open it.
One practical reason for employers to open mail is to stop suspicious packages before they are disseminated throughout the facility. With well-publicized cases of mail laced with anthrax or ricin, employers must be vigilant with mail deliveries. Safety policies are typically established by the company president or CEO. Suspicious mail should be reported to law enforcement and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s emergency response line regardless of who is the addressee.
While employers have the legal right to open personally-addressed mail, how they exercise that right is entirely at their discretion. Employee morale may suffer if such a policy is enforced without it being made clear. If employees are notified before they elect to have personal mail delivered to the office, they can exercise discretion with their mailing choices. If there is to be an understanding between employer and employee, then the latter should show restraint and good judgement with the mail they elect to have delivered to the office.
Thomas Metcalf has worked as an economist, stockbroker and technology salesman. A writer since 1997, he has written a monthly column for "Life Association News," authored several books and contributed to national publications such as the History Channel's "HISTORY Magazine." Metcalf holds a master's degree in economics from Tufts University.