Workplace Privacy and Employee Monitoring

Workplace Privacy


Employee Monitoring

Technology has made it easy and possible for companies to monitor the activities of employees’ who work for them especially on company telephones, computer terminals, through email and voice mail, and when employees are online. Literally, everything that an employee does on the office computer can be monitored.  This monitoring is practically not controlled by the government so unless company policy specifically states otherwise your employer has the capability to listen to, watch and read most of your workplace communications. The thing is that employer monitoring of its communication systems generally is considered to be an ethical and responsible business practice.  An employer’s failure to monitor and investigate its systems potentially may expose the employer to liability. 

Invading an employee’s privacy is now considered a normal business practice and the use of sophisticated technologies is to gain insights into individual employee behavior based on the digital footprints created each day in the workplace. This behavioral modeling technology can piece together all of these electronic records to provide behavior patterns that employers may utilize to evaluate employee performance and conduct.  For example, it might look for word patterns, changes in language or style, and communication patterns between individuals. Almost all employers monitor their employees. They are motivated by concern over litigation and the increasing role that electronic evidence plays in lawsuits and government agency investigations.

A survey found that most employers monitor their employees’ website visits in order to prevent unacceptable surfing that could cause issues for the company. A large number of employers use software to block connections to websites that are not allowed to employees. Employers are concerned about employees visiting adult sites with sexual content, as well as games, social networking, entertainment, shopping and auctions, sports, and external blogs. Of the 43% of companies that monitor e-mail, nearly three-fourths use technology to automatically monitor e-mail.  28% of employers have fired workers for e-mail misuse. Telephone numbers dialed from phone extensions can be recorded by a device called a pen register. It allows the employer to see a list of phone numbers dialed by your extension and the length of each call. This information may be used to evaluate the amount of time spent by employees with clients

Most companies use video monitoring for the prevention of thefts, violence, and disruption. Very few employers use video surveillance to track employees’ on-the-job performance. Most employers notify employees of anti-theft video surveillance and performance-related video monitoring. Exceptions are usually given for personal calls. Under federal case law, when an employer realizes the call is personal, he or she must immediately stop monitoring the call. However, when employees are told not to make personal calls from specified business phones, the employee then takes the risk that calls on those phones may be monitored. The best way to ensure the privacy of your personal calls made at work is to use your own mobile phone.

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