It’s understandable that employers would want to monitor their employees. To increase productivity, you want to be sure your staff is where they’re supposed to be. You want to know they’re not slacking off in the breakroom or janitor’s closet. This does, however, raise some legal questions regarding what kind of workplace monitoring is considered legal. This is an area our business law team tackles on a regular basis for Lynnwood business owners.
The Legality of Workplace Monitoring
There are currently no laws in place that directly address employee privacy rights. This gives employers considerable leeway. In essence, monitoring employees is considered a business operation much like handling customer service or overseeing supply line productivity.
According to National Workrights Institute president Lewis Maltby, just about any type of monitoring is allowed, as long as it doesn’t involve the restroom.
So, what are the typical monitoring tools? Employers may use just about any form of surveillance, such as security cameras, motion detectors, and even software solutions that monitor an employee’s keystrokes. Phone conversation monitoring is also typically legal. Nevertheless employers must inform their employees that they’re recording them. Some employers have embeded microphones and tracker devices inside employee ID badges.
Our firm highly recommends that employers set forth clear notices regarding monitoring. To avoid ethical and legal concerns, we recommend the following:
- Set policies and enforce an ethics code outlining how staff members should conduct themselves
- There should be full disclosure regarding any use of stealth monitoring systems
- Work with employees to create a monitoring program that strikes a balance between surveillance and privacy
Know Your Rights
Contact Curtis & Casteel Law Group before employing any type of monitoring. While the law is often on the side of the employer on this issue, laws may also slightly differ between jurisdictions. You can also contact us if you’re an employee and suspect an employer is violating your privacy with questionable workplace monitoring practices.
Edited by Justin Vorhees
Business Law Consultation for Employers and Employees
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