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Employee Privacy Rights In The Workplace

Essay by   •  May 8, 2011  •  2,062 Words (9 Pages)  •  1,407 Views

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An employer believes that an employee is engaged in misuse of the company computer. Another employer in the same building believes that a well respected employee is secretly sharing comments regarding the company to another rival company. An office two blocks down is having trouble keeping their business staffed because the employees feel their privacy rights are not protected while on the job. Many employers feel that what their employees do while at work is their business because it is their job to protect their assets.

The word privacy is a very simple word. Privacy is defined as being personal or confidential. Most all employers value their employees and only watch them when they become suspicious. A well written and communicated company policy is the first step to ensure your company has not created an expectation of privacy among employees. (Lenckus, 2000) Most company handbooks won't say if the employees will be watched to protect the assets of the company. However, some handbooks do state that the privacy of the company will be protected and that the employees will assist in the protection of the company's liability. Most handbooks also state that if an employee fails to comply with this statement, they will be subject to termination up to prosecution.

These types of privacy rights are enforced to protect your company from any adverse actions of a disgruntled employee. Some adverse actions could include using a company computer for personal pleasure or personal business. Another adverse action could be an employee accessing unauthorized material and other important information regarding the company. There are several actions that an employee may initiate to break privacy barriers.

This erratic behavior may cause an employer to become suspicious. This leads to watching employees, then, the employee may feel uncomfortable and will begin to defend his/her privacy rights in the workplace. As an employer, by law you have the right to search any employee work area, including desks, briefcases and computers. (Lenckus, 2000) Any employee can be asked to also empty his/her pockets at any given time. An employee refusing to cooperate could be granted termination of employment.

Many companies have developed their own risk management teams to oversee the company's loss. This can cause discomfort on a job by many employees because they feel that their privacy is not being respected. However, many companies adopt this type

of risk management to protect the assets of the company. I once worked for a major retail store chain. This corporation at one time did not have a risk management team to assist in the protection of privacy and the assets of the company. After years of loosing assets and most of all, the attention of privacy rights of the employees, they had no choice but to birth a team of individuals to help protect the rights of the employees and the company. This has enabled the company to preserve many losses and liability claims. It has also had a major impact on this company's profitability.

Many employees who are not familiar with the way their company surveil them become disgruntled when they learn of it. Many employees believe that it is against the law to invade their privacy; however, these are the employees who are ignorant to the law that enable employers to surveil their employees. To some, it is a feeling of being invaded, the most common form of invasion (Employee Privacy Rights 2). This happens when a company wants to search an employee or put an employee through a drug test. A search can be legal if it is properly done. Also, the employer has to have a good reason to initiate a drug test.

A major argument regarding employee privacy rights is sexual harassment on the

job. Office romances are not permitted by most employers. This type of behavior could cause a law suit within a company. The liability for both the company and the employee are at stake because the sexual harassment policy is not being followed. To some, this harassment policy does, however, limit some privacy in a work place.

Employees can be monitored by law. For example, if you call a credit card company for information regarding an account, the first thing you will here would be a

recording stating that this call will be monitored for quality purposes. This type of

monitoring is common. Employers can also use this type of monitoring through the use

of company provided email and internet access, monitoring each site and place visited

while on the computer. (Lenckus, 2000)

The use of cameras and spy software installed on company computers have led to

discipline actions against employees who have violated the privacy of the company and

also other employees. Many employees who have this type of access to computers often

engage in personal related activities in which leads them into disciplinary problems.

Employers who engage in these methods of surveillance have less liability in the loss of

company assets. The assets can range from as little as an employee work schedule up to

confidential financial records of the company. They could also include the social security

numbers of employees and payroll information. The rights of the employees are not

invaded but rather protected along with the privacy rights of the company. This privacy

should be respected as the rights of the employees are protected as well.

Since it may be a lot more difficult to keep the rights of the employee and the

employer at an equal level, awareness is important. It is critical to the employee and the

employer

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