Actually, employees' right to privacy in the workplace is very limited. In general, you have an established right to monitor employee telephone calls, computer content, voice mail and e-mail, and even videotape work areas. According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego, there are very few laws regarding on-the-job employee monitoring, but you are obligated to honor any policies you set in this area. For example, if you tell employees they will be notified when monitoring takes place, you'll have to notify them.
Many of the questions about privacy stem from technological advances that have contributed to greater productivity and efficiency. Those same advances have also created additional concerns for employers, says Beverly J. Bailey, owner of Bailey Strategic Human Resources in Diamond Bar, California. Such issues include misuse of work time by employees on tasks unrelated to the job, risks related to computer viruses and malicious code, harassment and discrimination conducted by the use of technology, security of confidential information and the possible misrepresentation of the company. "As a result, more em-ployers are monitoring employees' activities," says Bailey. And technology has made that easier, as well.
If you intend to monitor employees' phone calls, you should develop a policy on monitoring and have it reviewed by an attorney specializing in employment law before you implement it. Be sure that employees know and understand the policy and the procedures you will follow-as well as the reasons behind them-when it comes to monitoring their workplace conduct and communication.
"Employees also need to be made aware of the purpose for monitoring," Bailey says. For example, are you moni-toring to improve customer service or for security purposes? Workers who understand the reason for monitoring are more likely to accept it without feeling that their rights are being violated. "Trust is as relevant in the workplace as ever," Bailey notes. "Communication is the key to it all."
Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 13 years ago and has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since.
- Bailey Strategic Human Resources, 20787 E. Crest Ln., Ste B, Diamond Bar, CA 91765, (626)854-2663
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, (619) 298-3396, www.privacyrights.org.