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A Shadowed World:Employee Privacy Rights In The Workplace

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A Shadowed World:

Employee Privacy Rights in the Workplace

April M. Cox

Axia College

Com 120 Effective Persuasive Writing

Elpidio Estioko

July 09, 2006

A Shadowed World:

Employee Privacy Rights in the Workplace

In a society where people put so much emphasis into issues such as Patient and Client confidentiality, it is a wonder why they do not put as much emphasis into the issue of employment confidentiality. When it comes to employee rights to privacy, they do not know what those rights are. Do they even realize how and why they are violated by their employers? What does the government do to protect them? And what can the people do to protect themselves?

There are many aspects of employee Privacy Rights that are violated but there are not enough laws that will effectively protect them or even guarantee their protection for that matter. (This is my thesis statement I did not change it as Mr. E. Suggested because it was the same one he originally suggested before I did this assignment, I just moved it to the beginning of the document and also reused it at the end).

There are many areas to look at when it comes to dealing with employee privacy rights. One such area deals with the issue of personal information. Where identification theft is a rising epidemic in America, personal information is no longer safe. In his article, "The growing threat of identity theft and its complications for employers," Russell A Jones, stated, "Identity theft has increased dramatically over the last several years across the United States, and in 2005 according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), it was the nations leading cause of consumer complaints for the sixth consecutive year, with almost 8.9 million Americans victimized at an economical cost of nearly 56.6 billion dollars." (Jones 2006). Some areas of privacy are strongly upheld by the court system. According to Milton Zall, author of "Employee Privacy," in the May 2001 issue of the Journal of Management, "There are four types of court upheld privacy violations; one of these is the appropriation of an employee's name or likeness for commercial purposes." This means that an employer can not use an employees name or other identification information for advertising or any other form of commercial business without the employee's written consent. (Zall, 2001).

Background checks are a shadowed area when it comes to employee privacy rights. According to EDPM, a company out of Birmingham, Alabama, that performs such checks for employers, the following reasons exist for performing background checks. "30% of applicants lie about their employment background; 7 out of every 100 applicants have felony records; 1 million plus people are wanted in this country for felony crimes; 1 out of 3 applicants include fraudulent information on resumes; Fraudulent worker compensation claims cost employers over 5 billion dollars per year; Companies are being fined up to 10,000 dollars for the hiring of illegal aliens and 30% of all business failures are the result of employee theft."(EDPM.com). Some areas of ones background such as one's criminal and medical history should be open to examination as checks into these areas are sometimes warranted. One would not want a convicted sex offender working in a school or day care, anymore than one would want someone with a contagious disease or infection working there or in a hospital. According to Milton Zall, "An employer is allowed to make inquiries about a job applicant's criminal history. All though most states will not allow an employer to use an arrest that did result in a conviction to be used in a decision to hire or not to hire an applicant, however convictions are free territory when it comes to determining hiring eligibility and employers could be held liable in the circumstances arose where the employee could endanger others if the employee was negligent in doing such a check."(Zall, 2001). (This is one example Brian suggested I needed to add to support each paragraph.)

Another area of interest in privacy invasion is the issue of workplace surveillance. According to Kevin Bonsor, author of "How Workplace Surveillance Works," employee privacy rights are at the center of the debate when it comes to workplace surveillance. The number of bosses spying on their workers is on the rise due to things such as low cost monitoring technology; one's dishonesty by using company computers for personal use or leaking sensitive company information and employee behaviors that have the potential to lead to sexual harassment or discrimination lawsuits." Bonsor quoted AMA Human Resource Practice Leader Ellen Bayer as saying, "78% of all companies use some sort of surveillance system, 36% store and review computer files, 15% use video recording, 12% record and review phone calls and 8% store and review voice mail and emails." Bonsor proves that workplace surveillance has many angles when he states," There are five methods employers use to track an employee's activities. These include; the use of packet sniffers; log files; desktop monitoring programs; telephone and email monitoring and the use of closed circuit cameras." (Bonsor, 98-06). However, the two areas of biggest concern are with the presence of cameras in the workplace and the surveillance of phone and email activity and conversations. Justifiably so the presence of cameras in the workplace are becoming a fear for many employees. According to Jitendra M. Mishra and Suzanne M. Crampton, authors of "Employee Monitoring: Privacy in the Workplace," Employers use video surveillance to monitor employee behavior. Closed circuit cameras are often placed in open and noticeable areas of the workplace, however others may be placed where one does not even know it exists for instance in a locker-room, restroom or changing room."(Mishra and Crampton, 1998). There may be justifiable reasons to monitor ones activity however one must remember and be aware that when it comes to video surveillance according to Milton Zall, "intrusions into ones privacy regarding locker rooms and restrooms are also highly court upheld violations and taken very seriously."(Zall, 2001). Some areas of surveillance are perfectly legal. According to Mishra and Crampton, Computer monitoring can be justified as a needed process to determine one's employees' performance

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