Do Your Employees Have Privacy Rights at Work?

Do Your Employees Have Privacy Rights at Work?

There are a lot of situations in our lives where we probably wish we had video recordings of a situation as it happened.

For example, people are increasingly using dash cams as a way to record in case they get into an accident. Then, they can use their video evidence as part of their insurance claim.

That begins to lead many people to wonder what the limitations are on gathering video surveillance.

For example, if you’re a business owner, what rights to privacy do your employees have while they’re at work?

The following are things to know.

Using Cameras For Security Purposes

Many employers will use video cameras in their place of business to prevent internal theft or for various security reasons. That is typically permissible by law, but as an employer, you do usually need to let your employees know you’re doing it.

Employers aren’t allowed to use surveillance to monitor any union activity, which is one limitation. Also, there are limits on how and where employees can be monitored.

There are federal wiretap laws that prevent recording oral communication, which is why you’ll usually see that surveillance camera don’t have audio.

When Can You Video-Record Employees?

If you’re an employer, to be able to legally videotape employees, you generally need to have a legitimate business purpose for doing so.

For example, security reasons or for investigative purposes may fall into this permitted area of recording.

It’s almost always against the law to record your employees where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as in bathrooms or locker rooms.

If the cameras are visible, usually federal law permits it even if you don’t get your employees’ consent, as long as you’re not taping them to do something legal.

When the cameras are hidden, as an employer, the burden of proof is on you to show that you’re recording for legitimate business reasons. If cameras are hidden, you may have to go beyond showing that you’re doing it for security reasons.

The general rule of thumb to keep yourself in a safe zone with recording your employees is that you do let them know you’re doing it, and you tell them why.

Giving written notice and having your employees sign off on it can protect you later on.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act

The ECPA does let employers listen to business calls, but they can’t record or listen to conversations considered private.

If there’s an area used for work, audio recording laws might be permitted.

Monitoring Computers and Devices

Under some conditions, employers are permitted to collect data on a computer even when it belongs to the employee if they have either a court order or they have a specific and well-defined policy that permits them to monitor the computer within work premises.

However, in general, employees are protected from searches not authorized of their personal items by the Fourth Amendment.

This only covers the government sector and not the private sector, but it can be something good to follow regardless.

If you’re an employer and you’re going to monitor the computer, email or phone of your employees, you should have again a defined policy letting them know you’re doing that and you should have written acknowledgment from your employees.

As for emails, most employers in the United States do have policies that allow them to monitor emails. Under the law, an email an employee sends or receives on a business system, whether business-related or private, can be considered the property of the company and as such, it can be accessed and viewed.

Drug Testing

While it doesn’t have anything to do with surveillance, drug testing often comes up in conversations about employees’ right to privacy.

Private companies do have the right to test employees for drugs and alcohol, with limits. For example, the records of the tests can’t be released, and there are in many states restrictions on screenings of current employees. Check out drug screening Massachusetts to get an idea of what substances can be tested and how drug panels work.

One big exception is if employees work in jobs with health or safety risks that could occur because of the use of drugs or alcohol, or an employee is suspected of using substances on the job.

This is just a sample of the many issues that can arise if you’re an employer as far as employee privacy rights.

The best protection you can have as an employer is, again, informing your employees of any surveillance you’re using and make sure they give their consent.

Similar Posts