Legal and Ethical Aspects of Electronic Monitoring and Surveillance of Employees”

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“Legal and Ethical Aspects of Electronic Monitoring and Surveillance of Employees”| |
By: Chakana Moore, Patricia Davis, Eric Luken, Michelle Dailey, Jeffrey Webb| |

Electronic Monitoring and Surveillance
Human Resource Management
Research Project
November 21, 2011
Legal and Ethical Aspects of Electronic Monitoring and Surveillance of Employees


Workplace monitoring has been a point of discussion within businesses as Human Resource Management feels that there is a need to watch their employees and how they conduct themselves at all times during the work day. Unless a government employee, employees are subject to any monitoring the employer deems necessary. Monitoring of e-mail and voicemail, as well as personal searches is within the rights of employers. Conducting video surveillance and tracking internet use are also rights of employers. There are legal as well as ethical aspects of employee monitoring which will be discussed in this paper. Specifically, we’ll expound on two specific organization examples that illustrate the growth of workplace monitoring. Next, issues and challenges of employee monitoring will be discussed. Lastly, sound recommendations based on our research will be given because it affects the people within the organization. It’s vital for workers to understand why monitoring is important and managers to respect and understand that employees have rights as well. Company/Organizational Examples

Many companies utilize monitoring and surveillance. They have to learn to balance employer and employee rights. Businesses have the right to ensure that the employees are performing their jobs properly in a secure environment. On the other side, employees feel they should be protected at work and away from work. Since technology allows for employees to take large sums of valuable company secrets or data with them, workplace monitoring has increased. Common workplace monitoring includes e-mail and voice mail, internet use, and surveillance at work.

Workplace monitoring has grown because of several forces. First force was the expansion in available technology, ranging from the internet to global tracking devices, which enhanced video capabilities and improved information systems software. Another force mentioned in our textbook is the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which led to the passing of USA Patriot Act. (Robert L. Mathis, John H. Jackson 502) This Act allowed government investigators to engage in broader monitoring of individuals, including workplace, in order to protect national security. One concern raised in the workplace is the privacy rights of employees. Employees can feel they are being threatened because of the monitoring. “Right to privacy” is an individual’s freedom from unauthorized and unreasonable intrusion into personal affairs. However, constitutional rights to privacy are generally inferred through the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment’s rights which usually apply only to state actions. (Kopp) In an employment context, state actions are fairly narrowed to protecting federal, state, and municipal employees; private-sector employees must look elsewhere for protection. A possible source for such protection from employer snooping includes federal legislation and state common law tort actions such as invasion of privacy. The primary piece of federal legislation suggesting employee privacy interest is Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). (McCubbins) There are three exceptions under the ECPA. The first one is the “provider exception” which says if the employer is providing the telephone, e-mail, or internet services to the employee being monitored, there is little doubt that the employer is protected from employee privacy claims. A second exception is the “ordinary course of business.” Under this exception, the employee can monitor employee communications to...
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