Electronic Monitoring and Workplace Privacy

Topics: Privacy, Surveillance, Employment Pages: 5 (1786 words) Published: October 23, 2008
Electronic Monitoring and Workplace Privacy
Workplace privacy is one of the biggest issues facing businesses today. Do you feel like you are being watched all the time, all your e-mails being read, and every key stroke is being monitored by your boss? Some people feel this way and that is why privacy in the workplace is a problem with many businesses today. Employees feel like they are not being trusted, or feel the company invades on their personal privacy, or violates their fourth amendment rights. On the other hand many businesses have many federal and state laws to follow, and must keep their assets safe, and their employees. Technology makes communications of all sorts as easy as a few pushes of a button. This technology makes it easy for an employer to monitor an employee in almost any fashion, from e-mails to video surveillance. This will make it easy for an employee to abuse the technology the company lets the employee use. Employers need and have the right to monitor their employees to avoid legal liability, as a result of harassing of offensive communications, security concerns relating to intentional or accidental release of sensitive data, and for safety concerns for there employees and business assets. Employees give up their right to privacy as soon as they walk through the door.

There is an increasing trend of employees suing employers for the wrong doing of other workers. Some employees believe they should have the same privacy rights they have at home. Employers are responsible for their employees. Employers need to monitor employees to avoid legal liability as a result of harassing of offensive communications. In the case of Schwenn v. Anheuser Bush, Inc. a women printed out her e-mail messages, and used them as evidence in court, to show a hostile environment (Lee, and Kleiner, 2003). When employees communicate with each other inside the office and one is offended by the e-mail; the company is responsible. A company is not allowed to let offensive communication, or harassing communication, in the workplace, and if there is any, the company is legally responsible. Four employees of Chevron received sexual harassment e-mails from other employees that were meant to be jokes, and Chevron ended up paying the four employees a total of 2.2 million dollars (Lee, and Kleiner, 2003). Businesses protect themselves by monitoring e-mails, telephone calls, and internet usage. If a company finds any evidence of offensive communication or harassing communication, the company will have to prosecute the employee, by firing, or reporting it to the authorities. Not only will this protect the employer, but promotes a safe and healthy work environment for all. Employers need to monitor employee communications and set rules for usage, and many lawsuits could be avoided.

Legal issues concerning electronic monitoring are not explicate, and a little murky. There are federal and state laws that protect the employee and employer. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) (1986) is the federal law that governs electronic monitoring in the workplace. With this law, as explained by Nord, McCubbins, and J. Nord, there are three parts that protect the employer. First is the “provider exception.” If the employer owns the telephone, e-mail server or internet services, and provides them to the employee, the employer is protected from employee privacy claims. Second is the “ordinary course of business” exception. With this protection, the employer can monitor employee communications to ensure legitimate business objectives and assuring quality control, preventing sexual harassment, and unauthorized use of equipment. Third is the “course of business” language. In monitoring telephone conversations, employers can listen in on the conversation, for only as long as it would take to determine if the conversation is private, at that point, the employer no longer is allowed to listen in on the conversation, unless there is...
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