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Employee Privacy Rights In The Workplace

3174 words - 13 pages

I. INTRODUCTION

Controversy surrounding workplace monitoring and surveillance has intensified with the rapid digitization of the workplace. The ways in which we work, communicate and share information have forever changed. Employers are playing constant “catch up” with new technologies that are utilized on a broad scale long before policies are created to manage their impacts.
Privacy issues often arise in connection with employer efforts to locate, hire and evaluate the most qualified and reliable employees. Improvements in technology, such as the rapid rise of the use of electronic mail and the increasing use of surveillance cameras, often force otherwise reluctant employers to ...view middle of the document...

And Recent case law has made clear that as long as employees are told that they have a “limited expectation of privacy” in their use of workplace electronic resources, the door is wide open for pervasive monitoring and surveillance.
II. HISTORY AND BACKGROUND OF THE ISSUE
The invention of e-mail has dramatically changed the way organizations do business. For example, it helps employees avoid time-wasting phone calls and lengthy paper memorandums. Yet, the use of workplace e-mail brings many costly disadvantages too. For example, employees often use the company-provided e-mail to send external, personal messages during working hours. Other employees will use the technology to harass fellow co-workers or spread sexual or racial jokes throughout the company. These problems have caused many employers to implement e-mail surveillance systems to ensure that the privilege is not abused.
Surveillance of employees is a longstanding, and arguably necessary, part of preventing employee misconduct, as well as monitoring employee performance. This may lead to a feeling among employees that their privacy is being invaded at work through these intrusive measures.
III. THE USE OF SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS IN THE WORKPLACE
Another popular surveillance technique is the use of video camera surveillance in the workplace. Perhaps because the cameras have become relatively inexpensive, more than 16 percent of employers now videotape their employees. Installing a workplace camera used to cost thousands of dollars, but now you can easily find self-install cameras on the Internet for less than $200. You can use workplace cameras to successfully monitor employee activity, avoid theft, and promote safety. But if the employer is not careful, they can also be subject to liability.
A. The Third Watchful Eye: Visual Surveillance Techniques
Americans today are blindly mugging for hidden cameras as they sit in their offices, ring their neighbors’ doorbells, or drive through traffic lights and tollbooths. As the electronic eyes shrink in size, Big Brother grows even bigger leaving citizens with a dilemma: is more security worth less privacy?
B. Steps in Which An Employer Can Use to Avoid Liability For Using Visual Surveillance in The Workplace
According to an article, written by Bill Krizner, in an M.Lee Smith Publication “[e]mployers can avoid liability for workplace video cameras by implementing the following causes of action:
Avoid placing video cameras in extremely private areas. Courts have recognized invasion of privacy claims if employers placed video cameras in toilet stalls and showers. You should even be wary of placing cameras inside locker rooms, unless you have a closely related business purpose for doing so.
Implement a video surveillance policy. The policy should notify employees that you use workplace video surveillance and provide business-related reasons for it. Courts have found monitoring productively, avoiding theft, and...

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