Our world of technological advances is growing day by day. So much so, in fact, that new laws are created to help determine the legal responsibilities and actions to be taken if an incident occurs. The advantages and disadvantages of monitoring and being monitored will be discussed. Some of the laws that represent the employer and employee as well as why an employer would want to monitor an employee will also are discussed. Although employee monitoring is beneficial to an employer for a variety of reasons, it is better for an employer to leave an employees’ private life away from the workplace private.
Employee Privacy Rights in the Workplace
The Eye That Is Watching
Employee monitoring is becoming more widespread throughout the United States. There are various methods of employee monitoring being used. A few of the monitoring methods are video cameras, Internet wiretapping, global positioning system (GPS), electronic eavesdropping, and biometric identifiers. With the use of video cameras, W.T. “Ted” Sandlin states, “surveillance means only extension of the eye” (Frankel, 1996, 2).
Employers can use video cameras for different reasons. They use cameras for watching people who shop in case a shopper takes something without paying. Cameras can also be used above cash registers in case employees steal money. Video cameras have been used for so many years and by so many companies that our society tends to ignore the cameras. Employers use an Internet wiretap system to monitor the different web sites visited by each employee. Truck and delivery companies have been using the GPS for many years so they can monitor the traveling being done by their drivers (Freedman, 2006). Not all companies purchase GPS tracking devices to monitor employees. Some companies purchase these devices to show safe driving habits to insurance companies and to have service calls adequately covered by technicians. (Siegel, 2004). Electronic eavesdropping is used when an employer wants to listen to voice mail recordings, read emails that were sent and received, and also listen to cell phone conversations. Researchers are testing biometric identifiers in hopes of improving security and preventing fraud (Graham-Rowe, 2005). Perfecting the biometric identifiers system will allow people to carry their digital identities with them wherever they go.
Legal Aspects of Monitoring
Many employees feel that they have a right to privacy in the workplace. There are several laws that deal with employees’ and employers’ rights in relation to privacy and employee monitoring. “The Federal Criminal Codes (18 U.S.C. §2510, and §2511) specifically discuss interception of wire, electronic, and oral communications”. (Firoz, Taghi & Souckova, 2006, ¶26) The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, speaks about lawsuits regarding employment and discrimination. (¶27) The Fourth Amendment; however, does not guarantee a right of privacy; it protects U.S. citizens against unreasonable search and seizure, but does not protect private employers.(¶28) The 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) says “that it is a federal crime for an individual to willfully intercept, access, disclose or use another’s wire, oral, or electronic communication”.(¶29). This act does not ‘apply’ to employees in a private business because “email in a private sector does not affect interstate commerce” (¶29). “The Notice of Electronic Monitoring Act is proposed legislation dealing with how often employers must inform employees about electronic monitoring” (¶31). The Importance of Employee Monitoring
Even though employees might interpret employee monitoring as an invasion of privacy and a lack of trust from their employer, the employer does the monitoring to protect the employees' systems and business interests. Employers monitor employees for a variety of reasons. One reason for monitoring is to check how many keystrokes...