When people are working in an office environment, it is quite clear that they have given up a part of their privacy. Yet everyone has a certain degree of privacy that shouldn’t be violated, even if they are at their employer’s premises and using office equipment. Small details such as what they are typing on their computer screen are most likely in plain sight of their coworkers.
Whichever way you put it, law or otherwise, it is common sense to respect a person’s privacy. Employers need access to certain information to generate payroll and implement employee benefits. Here are some of the most common workplace-related privacy issues employees are likely to encounter.
Employers can monitor what their employees are doing on company equipment such as computer, wireless devices, and company-provided smartphones. This is because the business owns all these devices, making employers eligible to deploy tracking tools at their leisure. Employers can view what their workers are doing on the desktop, what they store on hard drives, the number of keystrokes they enter, and what those keystrokes represent.
It is important to let your employees know that all their work that goes through company-provided devices is being monitored.
Employers have the right to access email systems provided to employees. They can go through all the contents of their emails whenever they feel is appropriate. This also applies to personal email accounts, as long as they are activated on company-given equipment. Employers do not have the right to monitor activity on personal devices of their employees, but they might choose to implement certain policies to restrict the use of smartphones and other such tools.
Monitoring Telephone Devices
Employers can access all messages exchanged on company-provided phones. In fact, most call centers and other professional telephone services have their conversations routinely monitored by their supervisors to control quality and feedback. Employers are not allowed to monitor private conversations unless they have notified their employees that their phone calls are being monitored.
Employers are allowed by the federal laws to use video cameras in order to protect sensitive information and monitor equipment. What’s important to note here is that employers are not required legally to notify their employees that they are being watched. This means they can hide the camera in plain sight or covertly.
If employees are given company-maintained vehicle to travel to and from work, they have complete freedom to monitor their employee’s activities, such as where they drive, how fast they are driving, how much fuel they are consuming, and how long they remain idle.
Delivery of Postal Mail
Employees are not expected to have any privacy when it comes to postal mail delivered to the company address. Once the mail has been delivered to company doorsteps, it is legal for the employer to open it and read its contents.
Using Social Media
If the business gives control of its social media handles to its employees, it has every right to monitor the tools employees use to publicize posts. It is understandable that employers want their employees to publish relevant posts that give information about products and services.
After Business Activities
While employers have no control whatsoever over their employees outside of their official work hours, they can control how they conduct themselves as long as they are at the workplace, even if it is after hours. It is recommended to give detailed guidelines on what employees can and can’t do within office premises after work hours.
Confused about designing your employee handbook? Employee handbooks help you avoid costly lawsuits if they are appropriately designed. To learn about employee handbooks and other tools needed for offices, get in touch with the consultants at JS Benefits Group.