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Keeping Watch

Monitoring employees? "They'll never notice" is not the way to start.

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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.

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