Employee Monitoring: Ethics and Laws Employers Must Know

August 30, 20192:20 pm
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Undeniably, the rise of technology has made businesses more attentive to their employees’ privacy since new communication medium can give easier access for people to steal company data. It can also be a medium for employees to spread negative rumours that might endanger the company bottom line.  But what does the law say about employee monitoring and privacy?

The legality of employee monitoring

One Spy research found that workplace spying has become a necessary activity for employers in order to protect their business and improve productivity. Nearly half of business leaders in the survey said that they track employees’ sent and received emails, as well as their logs of keystrokes.

See also: 10 Top Employment Law Issues in Asia Pacific

Johnathan Yerby in his study also stated that employee monitoring is a legal practice by law. It is needed to create better productivity and efficiency within industry. At the same time, organisations can monitor employees and use this knowledge to monitor the environment and promote efficient relationships and build a better culture.

The problem arises from employee monitoring

On the other hand, while it is not illegal to dive and track employees’ activity and behaviour, the practice of monitoring remains controversial and becomes subject to a grey area. It gives a new warning to work effectiveness and ethics.

Employees want freedom and less monitoring, Yerby wrote, they are against monitoring activities in the workplace. If conducted relentlessly, employee monitoring can be considered as invading employees’ privacy. Thus, it can cause work-related stress, decrease job satisfaction, decreased work-life quality, and lower levels of customer service as well as morale.

The ethics and law of employee monitoring

As suggested in the statement above, it is important for HR leaders to understand the ethics and laws of employee monitoring and privacy.

Workplace ethics and employee privacy

Employee monitoring might force employees to lose their privacy in their own personal working space. Law Gazette stated that employees must necessarily agree to a certain amount of monitoring, including their locations, working space, and personal use of a company’s property (internet, telephone, or email). It indicates that as long as employees are inside and/or using a company’s property, they should agree to be monitored.

On the other hand, albeit a company has the right to closely monitor their employees, monitoring should still protect the rights of their employee’s privacy. So, employers must keep it credential unless otherwise the case should be taken care of by a third party (court). There is also a provision that it is unethical to implement surveillance in the restrooms.

Moreover, albeit the common laws does not state that it will 100 percent protect the right to privacy, employees might claim that intrusive monitoring constitutes an act of trespass, especially if employers routinely conduct physical inspections or searches in employee’s workspace.

All sort that can be monitored
1. Computers and workstations

Most computer monitoring equipment allows employers to monitor without the employees’ knowledge. The employees, nevertheless, should be given protection under certain circumstances. For example, you might create a policy that limits employers’ right to conduct excessive monitor. If the practice is violated, employees might report the employers.

2. Email and instant messaging

Any email or instant messaging system which is used at a company is owned by employers and is allowed to be reviewed.

3. Telephones

Employers might monitor calls you made with clients or customers for reasons of quality control. However, an important exception for personal calls should be written under clear clause.

4. Mobile devices

Generally, employers might monitor your use of any employer-provided mobile phone. There is an additional charter, however, that employers allow employees to use their own personal mobile devices for work purposes. This is referred to as bring your own device (BYOD) programs. The law concerning employee rights when using their own devices is less likely to have clear cut answers, but you can refer to this information.

5. Social media

Company might limit the use of social media at work. In addition, depending on company policy and state you live in, some states have laws that prohibit employers from disciplining an employee based on off-duty activity on social networking sites, unless the activity can damage company in some way.

6. Audio and video recording

Federal law does not prevent video monitoring even when an employee does not know or consent to be monitored. However, court has sided employee privacy in instances where monitoring has been physically invasive, such as hidden cameras in a locker room or bathroom.

7. Location (GPS) tracking

Employers might use GPS devices to track employees in employer-owned vehicles. Employers might also use cell phone tracking to monitor employee location. This should be made available for work concern only.

Read also: How Will a Geo-location Monitoring System Affect On-field Employee Morale?