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Privacy In The Workplace

Essay by   •  December 22, 2010  •  1,850 Words (8 Pages)  •  2,273 Views

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Privacy in the workplace is a major issue facing many organizations today. When starting an organization, many who are in control will evaluate the need for monitoring employees and when it should occur. Some organizations have monitored their employees during both on and off the job, and even suggest the employees should change certain behaviors. Many employees argue against the monitoring and find it as an invasion of privacy. The employees feel their behavior is being controlled by the employer, when the employer has no right to do so. Currently, there is no regulation of law for protecting employee privacy rights, while still maintaining security for the employer and their business. There is an assumption for the “right to privacy”. This assumes that employees should be given the right to be a part of certain activities in their private lives and they should be able to protect the usage of information of their personal lives. Employers do take some action to protect their employees in the work environment, such as protecting certain medical records or personal documents on file. There is still the problem of how the employers use the information of employees’ private lives in the workplace. Much research has been done to reveal the impact and the need of monitoring both on and off the job.

There is often an issue with who should be more in control with the issue of privacy in the workplace, the employer or the employee. In a recent article from Personel Today, it is stated how employers should have the business right to monitor their employees (1). It is difficult to even say that employees should be given any privacy rights at all when they agree to work for an organization. Many employers have a variety of equipment their employees use on a day-to-day basis: computers, telephones, vehicles, tools, keys to certain rooms, etc. If an employee chooses to use the equipment, the employer has the right to monitor and keep track of how the equipment is used, who is using it, and where it has been during possession. Even though the employer does have the right to monitor employees on the job, the rights still have to be agreed upon by the employee and the employee must be aware of the monitoring (1). The employee can be in opposition to the monitoring taking place. With this requirement of having to notify employee monitoring, this eliminates the employer being able to monitor at random when suspicious activity is being performed. For example, if someone is looking at pornography on the employer’s computer device and are notified that they will be getting monitored. Seeing that their job may be on the line, most likely the employee will stop viewing pornography on the employer’s computer device.

With the many advantages in technology, this is making it easier for employers to monitor employees. With the use of computers and other technological devices in keeping records of employee information and activities, it makes it easier to gain access to private information by any employee or employer. The employer should recognize the importance of who has possible access to employee personal information. Employers are more supportive to the new technologies entering the workplace because it is making it easier to have a hand on what the employees are doing at anytime of the day. Research has found that 92% of mid-size to large employers use employee monitoring devices (2). Employees feel the new technologies are being used as tracking devices, such as a GPS system being used on business vehicles. Courts allow employers to monitor their employees through video cameras, but restrict them from monitoring inside an employee’s home (3). In one criminal law case, of Washington v. Jackson, the courts drove the requirement of having a warrant to be able to impose on the privacy of an employee during off the job time (3). In this particular case, the employee felt he had experienced an invasion of privacy occurring in personal places, such as a doctor’s appointment or gambling (3). When advanced technology is being used to monitor employee activity, it should only be used during working hours. It should be a requirement for the employer to inform the employee of the monitoring, like they do in California, Alaska, Florida, and Illinois. When the employee is using technology owned by the company, such as GPS systems, the employer should have the right to monitor employees’ usage of the device and not the private activities being performed by the employer during off the job times.

Employers should accept the rights of employees. These rights can include the right to pursue non-work activities of choice and the right to privacy off the job. The employees should be able to join any type of social group as they choose, but the employees are not able to purposefully sabotage their employer, such as the issue with blogs (4). When an employee has issues with an employer it needs to be resolved internally. Employees should have the right to live their private lives however they so choose. The employer should not have any regulation on it. The employer does have the right to search through any of the belongings of the employee at work, as long as the employee is given notification.

Just think of the issue with blogs, where many employees who blog on their own free time feel the consequences in their work. Even some employees end their employment by the blogging being performed. They post messages about their fellow employees and work environment, the employer founds out and out they go. The employee is only sharing statements of their thoughts in public. How is it that the employer has the right to punish for activities performed off the job? The employer is able to prove how the blogs are sabotaging their business and possibly other employee performance.

Privacy in the workplace has a great impact on the work environment, psychologically, physically, and socially. It can affect morale and the productivity of employees. Employers need to pay close attention to what type of work environment they are creating for employees when dealing with the issue of privacy. They need to be respectful of their employees’ privacy.

“Workplace performance” is used to explain a work environment that supports and optimizes the performance of work (5). It is important to develop some level of privacy for employees in a work environment because those around the employee or monitoring them can affect their workplace performance, both negatively and positively. An employee may perform better when no one is watching them, while others perform better when being monitored. The

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