Employee Privacy 1 Employee Privacy in the Workplace: Do you think Employers go Overboard? Employee Privacy 2 Privacy in the Workplace: Do you think Employers go overboard? As traffic on the "information superhighway" continues to explode a number of wondering questions about the use and abuse of these information networks arises. One issue of primary concern is whether the current law provides adequate protection for the employees right to privacy in the workplace from threats posed by computer technology, electronic, video and sound recording equipment, and databases filled with personal information. What are the guidelines for an employees' right to privacy in the workplace? Do think employers go over board?

What would you do if you called a company or a business for their services only to discover after they were in your home, they were not legit and scammed many other people and was not able to meet the guidelines they promised? Then realizing all would have been prevented if you had checked their background work credentials. Many employers in today workplace have a fear of this same scenario. The only difference is instead of being a business or company it's their employees. Employers have rights to personal information concerning their employees, they need to know who they are hiring.

They need to know whether their employees can provide the work that's expected of them. Employee Privacy 3 People still expect to have some privacy even if their are at their place of employment. At the same time, it's normal that working for someone will mean that you must give up some privacy, but employers can balance their 'need to know' policy with their employees right to pri-vac y, by giving assurance that the personal information will be ap pro- privately used. But the chances for violating privacy are more than ever before, e-mail monitoring, web browsing, video surveillance, personal files makes it easier to for employers to get unlimited information, here Rivenbarkstates: The Supreme Court has broadly defined privacy as the right of the individual to control the dissemination of information about oneself. Privacy as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution in two significant ways from privacy protected by tort law: the types of acts constituting an invasion of privacy are very different, and the type of protection provided to individuals - constitutional privacy protects against governmental intrusion while tort law primarily protects against invasion by private parties. Fourth Amendment privacy rights only apply in those situations where the government is the primary actor, however it encompasses government employees and some government contractors whose activities might be considered as state action.

Some employers prefer to simply ban all non-employment related use of its computer system. At minimum, an employer should warn employees that it claims property rights over all data stored in the workplace computer system. Employee Privacy 4 In most cases the employer owns the computer network and the terminals, which makes it unconditionally accessible to him / her at anytime. Employees do have some protection from electronic eavesdropping under certain circumstances.

Based on Woods research he states: A recent headline from The Times reads: 'Warning: an e-mail could seriously harm your career. "Increasingly, this can be true. Computers permit extremely low cost and fast transmission and duplication of information. In some cases, it is precisely this and speed that can cause problems in the employment context. In one notorious occurrence last year, five lawyers from the London firm Norton Rose were disciplined for their role in forwarding a lewd e-mail originally sent to a lawyer by his girlfriend.

Within three minutes of the recipient forwarding the e-mail to friends within the firm, the titillating message had begun its journey through London law firms, and across continents. Computers, and computer tools such as e-mail and the Internet, have changed the way many employees work. These tools have also changed the way employers can monitor an employee's behavior. Employee Privacy 5 It is clear that employers are more frequently monitoring employee use of workplace computer systems. It is clear that employers are more frequently monitoring employee use of workplace computer systems. One U.S. study revealed that 2/3 of American companies have introduced some form of control or monitoring of employee computer use.

This monitoring can range from blocking inappropriate Internet sites, to recording frequency of e-mail or Internet use, reading the content of files stored on a computer, and tracking all computer use. Despite the fact that the issue of computer privacy in the workplace has received considerable attention in the media, Canadian courts have not yet directly or or comprehensively addressed whether, and how, employers may legally monitor employee e-mail and Internet use. This paper will review some cases, involving both unionized and non-unionized workplaces, that have considered these issues. "International Data Corporation predicts that e-mail monitoring software will grow significantly. The protection of organizational interests compels effective supervision of the workplace as firms face an increasing risk of litigation from employee misuse of computers and networks". (Wakefield, 2004) Differ ering attitudes toward privacy, and confusion over what sorts of monitoring are legally acceptable, can undermine the trust that employees place in their employers and possibly result in lawsuits by employees seeking compensation for invasion of privacy.

(Western ed. 2002) Employee Privacy 6 Employers or not obligated by law to give access to the personal information held about their employees, but it should be. So that they can verify it's correctness and completeness. Employers should also ensure that the information they receive is not used for unrelated purposes without the employees consent. It is important for an employer be able to show that an employee's terms of the policy has been validly and clearly obtained.

An employer should Provide a copy of an e-mail and Internet use policy to each employee, have them agree to its terms in exchange for some consideration, and sign the policy so as to have it form a part of the employment contract. Whether any employee's computer use or personal purposes occurs during work hours or after work hours may influence a decision maker's characterization of the misuse of the computer system. Whether the amount of time spent on personal business while on the computer could also give rise to the assertion that such conduct amounts to theft of time from the employer. Overall, the best thing to do is stand up for your writes to privacy in the workplace, find out if your rights are protected and then assert enforce it.

Because where there is respect for an individuals personal privacy there is an atmosphere of mutual trust and morale. Employee Privacy 7 Conclusion Though monitoring is effective, the only way to equalize the thin walls of privacy and protection is through a written email policy. A properly written email policy will inform employees about how you expect them to use email within the organization and can reduce the potential of liability for harassment and other email-based employee actions. An email policy should make it clear that the computer and the email system belong to the business. It should tell employees that emails to be used for authorized purposes only, and that the employer has the right but not the duty -- to monitor email.

Employers should notify employees that email cannot be used for, exchanging notes with other employees or personal business, and must include an statement that employees cannot expect privacy. The policy should be distributed to and signed by all employees. This is the only way employees will know for sure their rights, and under what guidelines they are protected. And even though an employer has a fair degree of control over the right to privacy of employees while they " re on the job and using the employer's property.

But the degree of control is not always made known to employees. So the question still stands, Do you think employers go overboard? Employee Privacy 8


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The Naked Employee: Surveillance. HR Magazine, vol. 49 (2), pp. 137. Retrieved from the ProQUEST Database on March 4, 2005.
Wakefield, R.L. (2004).
Employee monitoring and surveillance: The growing trend Information Systems Control Journal. vol 1 Retrieved from the Pro Quest Database on March 4, 2005.
Human Resources Advisor Newsletter. (Jan / Feb 2002).
Workplace Privacy. Retrieved from the Pro Quest Databased March 4, 2005 Woods, Richard "Yum yum: The saucy e-mail that wrecked Claire's life,' 'Sunday Times, December 17, 2000.