Employee Privacy Rights in the Workplace

Topics: Law, Employment, Surveillance Pages: 5 (1450 words) Published: November 13, 2006
The issue of privacy is a big concern in the workplace. With the expanding of new technology, many employees are concern about his or, her privacy in the workplace. Employees have the right to go to work knowing that his or, her employer will not invade their privacy. The rights to privacy in the workplace only provide limited protection for workers against monitoring and breach of confidentiality. The National Work Rights Institute states, under the federal law, "the limited protection the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986 provides to employees' has been reduced because the statue has been outdated."

Electronic monitoring has seen a tremendous growth in the workplace, in the past 10 years. The National Work Rights Institute states, "Prior to 1980, electronic monitoring was virtually unknown. Electronic monitoring was introduced into the workplace in the twentieth century for the use of bathroom breaks and measuring hand eye movements." Employers now use monitoring to listening to telephone calls and computer monitoring, such as email and internet use. While this monitoring is now important in the workplace, it is very invading to the employees, because an employer can monitor an employee activity in the workplace without his or, her knowledge. The National Work Rights Institute, under the federal law ¶1 states, "the only relevant federal legislation to protect employee privacy is the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Street Act of 1968 as amended by the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986". The law is to protect employees against unlawful monitoring

While monitoring has been around for many years, employees think monitoring poses a bigger threat to his or, her privacy in the workplace. Even though it is understandable that employers want to gain productivity and minimize losses, but this can be done without being invasive to the employees' privacy rights. So, employers are using a strategy, such as monitoring to ensure productivity in the workplace. According to the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986, "an employer can monitor their employee to ensure adequate job performance and supervise customer contacts."

The most common form of an invasion, to employee privacy rights is email. With the massive use of computers, email has become the biggest communication tool of choice in the workplace. The concern of employers has grown tremendously with the use of email in the workplace. Employers' concern is that, employees can waste time by sending and receiving email for personal use, and they may provide easy access for hackers to entry their computer system. Employers can monitor an employee computer activity to ensure productivity in the workplace. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (2006) states, "Unfortunately, if an employee uses a company computer for email use, the employee employer has the right to review the contents of his or her email." Employers are discovering that employee emails and telephone uses are starting to have an impact on its business. Therefore, employers are trying to protect the company's investment, by monitoring employees email without being invasive. Employers can use, computer software, which gives the employer the ability to record how much time the employees' spend on his or, her email account, without having to read the employees email directly.

While more companies are using computers as a way of communicating, some companies still rely on telephones for their source of communicating. In many companies, the concern is, employees are starting to spend too much time on the company telephones, for personal use. An employer can monitor, employees' telephone conversations, according to the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986, as long as it is a business related call, but not personal calls. Under the federal law in Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986 ¶1 states that, "with certain exceptions, prohibits the interceptor, disclosure, or use of wire, oral...

References: American Medical Association. (2005, March 07). Patient confidentiality. Retrieved September 28, 2006, from http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/4610.html
Martucci, C. W., & Place, M. J. (Summer 1998). Privacy rights and employee communication in the workplace. Employment Relations Today (Wiley), 25 (2), 12, 109-120. Retrieved September 22, 2006, from EBSCOhost database
Microsoft Office Online.(2006). Manage confidentiality in the workplace. Retrieved October 3, 2006, from http://office..microsoft.com/en_us/fx011454411033.aspx
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. (2006, February). Employee monitoring: Is their privacy in the workplace? Retrieved September 22, 2006, from http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs7-work.htm
The National Workrights Institute. Electronic monitoring in the workplace. Retrieved September 29, 2006, from http://www.workrights.org/issue_electronic/em_legislative_brief.html
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