Employee Essay In Privacy Right Workplace
Employees Rights 101
Employment law covers all rights and obligations within the employer-employee relationship -- whether current employees, job applicants, or former employees. Because of the complexity of employment relationships and the wide variety of situations that can arise, employment law involves legal issues as diverse as discrimination, wrongful termination, wages and taxation, and workplace safety. Many of these issues are governed by applicable federal and state law. But, where the employment relationship is based on a valid contract entered into by the employer and the employee, state contract law alone may dictate the rights and duties of the parties.
Employee Rights in the Workplace
All employees have basic rights in the workplace -- including the right to privacy, fair compensation, and freedom from discrimination. A job applicant also has certain rights even prior to being hired as an employee. Those rights include the right to be free from discrimination based on age, gender, race, national origin, or religion during the hiring process. For example, a prospective employer cannot ask a job applicant certain family-related questions during the hiring process.
In most states, employees have a right to privacy in the workplace. This right to privacy applies to the employee's personal possessions, including handbags or briefcases, storage lockers accessible only by the employee, and private mail addressed only to employee. Employees may also have a right to privacy in their telephone conversations or voicemail messages. However, employees have very limited rights to privacy in their e-mail messages and Internet usage while using the employer's computer system.
There are certain pieces of information that an employer may not seek out concerning a potential job applicant or employee. An employer may not conduct a credit or background check of an employee or prospective employee unless the employer notifies the individual in writing and receives permission to do so.
Other important employee rights include:
- Right to be free from discrimination and harassment of all types;
- Right to a safe workplace free of dangerous conditions, toxic substances, and other potential safety hazards;
- Right to be free from retaliation for filing a claim or complaint against an employer (these are sometimes called "whistleblower" rights);
- Right to fair wages for work performed.
Federal Regulations on Employment Relationships
Following is a quick summary of key federal laws related to employment. For more information, see Overview of Employment and Anti-Discrimination Laws.
- Applies only to employers with 15 or more employees.
- Prohibits employers from discriminating in the hiring process based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
- Prohibits discrimination against a person with a qualified disability.
- Provides that if an individual with a disability can perform essential functions with or without reasonable accommodation, that person cannot be discriminated against on the basis of their disability.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act
- Prevents employers from giving preferential treatment to younger workers to the detriment of older workers.
- Only applies to workers 40 years of age and older, and to workplaces with 20 or more employees.
- Does not prevent an employer from favoring older employees over younger employees.
Fair Labor Standards Act
- Provides regulation as to the duration of work days, and breaks an employer must provide.
- Governs applicable salary and overtime requirements set out by the federal government.
Family and Medical Leave Act
- Provides that employers must allow employees to take up to a 12-week leave of absence for qualified medical purposes.
- Stipulates that to qualify for the leave, the employee must have worked for the employer for 12 months and for 1,250 hours in the 12 months preceding the leave.
- Preserves qualified employees' positions for the duration of the leave.
Get a Free Legal Evaluation of Your Employment Rights Issue
Employees have a variety of rights in the workplace, established under both federal and state law. If you feel that your rights may have been violated in the context of your employment, it may be in your best interests to talk to an experienced employees' rights attorney who will explain your options and protect your legal rights. If you're not sure where to start, consider getting a free legal evaluation of your situation and potential claim.
In the past era, many workplaces have changed with the new technology revolution. Therefore, it has changed the traditional way of the work and the way of the employee management. Misusing of Company property, low productivity, attacks, robberies, violence, workplace mishaps are the main reasons for this Monitoring case.
According to this, the increased risks and enhanced tools have caused in increased use of surveillance and monitoring and an increase in the pressure between employee privacy and employer’s management rights.
Both employers and employees are concerned with privacy issues of continuous monitoring. Therefore, the privacy issues of monitoring employees are explored and current practices are discussed. My report further provides suggestions, arguments and discusses different perceptions given by other researchers and writers for ethical, legal, social and professional issues. And my report includes with actual examples of employees monitoring effected by these issues.
Table of Contents
Executive Summary 3
1. Introduction 5
2. Privacy at the workplace 7
3. Reasons for Monitoring and Surveillance 8
a. Employee or Customer Safety 8
b. Workplace Liability and Investigations 8
c. Network and Systems Performance 9
d. Employee Productivity 9
4. Employee monitoring 10
a. Video surveillance 10
b. Computer monitoring 11
c. Spying 11
d. Eavesdropping and wiretapping 11
e. Undercover operatives 12
f. E- Mail monitoring. 12
g. Active badge systems 13
h. Social media monitoring 13
5. Ethical analyzing 14
6. Discussion 15
a. Legal issues 15
b. Social issue 17
7. Conclusion 18
8. Recommendations 19
9. References 21
With the modern technology evolution, employee monitoring has become a controversial in the world in last era. After this development, it has changed the traditional way of the work and the way of the employee management. Misusing of Company property, low productivity, attacks, robberies, violence, workplace mishaps are the main reasons for this Monitoring case. According to this, the increased risks and enhanced tools have caused in increased use of surveillance and monitoring and an increase in the pressure between the employee privacy and management rights of the employers.
Every employer of a company or an organization monitors the activities and behavior of their employees in their workplace. And every employee should accept this monitoring case about Professional, Ethical and Privacy issues in their workplace.
The privacy of the employee has become a debatable issue of Human Resource management field as the employer has more technologies. Computer terminals, GPS tracking, voice mail and monitor telephones are some of the available technologies.
In Office of Technology Assessment, 1987, p. 27, Electronic monitoring defines as “the computerized collection, storage, analysis, and reporting of information about employees’ productive activities”.
Through the use of this employee monitoring technologies, the company management is able to know whether their employees are given their work hours for the company or whether they are doing something else. This technology includes the use of software that will allow the employers to know the websites being accessed by the employee too. And it may include use of the cameras also. So the employer may be able to observe the every activity of their employees.
Mostly, the employees dislike to be monitoring and consider this as a hateful act that they even consider as a violation of their most precious rights and liberties. Employees don’t want their company to know what they are actually doing in all the time. They feel it like less freedom at the workplace and the employers are involving their lives much more it is violates their right to privacy.
However, employee monitoring in workplace is not simply a restriction of the liberties and rights of the employees. But its purpose is to ensure that the interest of the employer is protected against any and all behaviors of the employee during their work hours. Cause they have a right to know it.
2. Privacy at the workplace
Privacy, yes it is very important to every human being. Let’s see what is ‘Ability of an individual or group to keep their lives and personal affairs out of public view or to control the flow of information about them’, this is called as Privacy.
The Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights :”Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”
The Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the United Nations of 1966: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.’
The use of E-mail, Internet, Telephones and policies of privacy at the workplace are become the part and parcel elements now. Basically, those policies are acts as a firewall that protecting the company’s resources being relevant to the Internet, Communication and Information technology. According to the requirements of the employers are develops their policies for employees. It is always depends on their requirements of their business, Information type and Communication methods etc. Those privacy issues are highly giving complete exactitude than other things where the core operations of the business are directly related to the personal information of employees and customers.
In the workplace, implemented the uses of Communication and Information technologies and privacy issues and in practice are organizational oriented and highly restricted that tightened the employees to use all the resources only for official use. To make those privacy issues in practical, there are highly dedicated server in place that strictly keep monitors each and every activity that does on the workplaces, that server has the highly dedicated and updated firewall that only give access to those websites and applications that are approved by the information security personnel. Therefore, employees are bound to use only company’s intranet and authorized websites. So they are not able to use public emails and internet for personal use such as social networks; Facebook, twitter.
Let’s see how this privacy issues are protecting by the employees, in their workplaces and what the employee monitoring one by one is.
3. Reasons for Monitoring and Surveillance
a. Employee or Customer Safety
Increasingly, attacks, robberies, violence, workplace mishaps, other workplace safety issues, and associated liabilities and damages provide motivation for employers to monitor the workplace. Remote worker monitoring systems are being used to monitor employees working alone or in isolation by using simple telephone and/or wireless technology with a standard computer workstation. Such systems can identify emergencies and guide response teams through a step-by-step emergency response. Deterrence, responsiveness and enhancing the ability to investigate are common objectives for use of monitoring measures.
b. Workplace Liability and Investigations
Potential legal liability resulting from employee computer misuse or misconduct is often a motive for employee monitoring. Incidents of harassment, safety and theft may trigger an investigation into such misconduct that may use monitoring or surveillance.
Racial and sexual harassment claims arising from racist or pornographic Web browsing or e-mails is not an uncommon occurrence. One law journal paper cited the following high-profile cases. Morgan Stanley, the Wall Street brokerage, was sued for US$70 million by employees because of racist jokes that were distributed on its e-mail system and allegedly created a hostile work environment. Chevron Corporation settled a $2.2 million lawsuit with employees who took offense to an e-mail about, ’25 Reasons Why Beer is Better than Women.’ Xerox Corporation dismissed 40 employees for sending or storing pornographic e-mail or looking at inappropriate web sites – some for up to eight hours a day – during working hours. The New York Times dismissed 22 people at a pension office in Virginia, for passing around potentially offensive e-mails, including some that allegedly included sex jokes and pornographic images. Dow Chemical Company dismissed 50 employees and disciplined 200 others for abuse of e-mail at one of its Michigan plants, which included off-color jokes, pictures of naked women, depiction of sex acts and violent images. Months later, Dow dismissed 24 workers and disciplined an additional 235 employees for the same misconduct at one of its Texas plants.
In 2001, Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources disciplined 66 employees, six of whom were dismissed for viewing, transmitting and storing pornography and other objectionable material. In 2003, the Yukon Government’s investigation into the same kind of misconduct implicated 542 employees and resulted in disciplinary action against 96 people.
c. Network and Systems Performance
Network performance is an important issue for businesses as a downed system can cost hours in lost productivity across the workforce, loss customers and revenue, and untold damage to reputation. Efficiency of the computer network is also an important factor in business productivity and performance. A major concern for employers is network bandwidth traffic, including slowdowns related to employees downloading, sharing and using large audio and video files, Internet surfing and high volumes of personal e-mail. These activities can also introduce viruses that may attack and disable a network.
d. Employee Productivity
As companies invest heavily in sophisticated PDAs, computers and software for employees, concerns over employee use of employer computer resources is a major motivation for employee monitoring. In 2000, the Angus Reid Group reported that Canadian employees spent about 800 million work hours each year on personal Internet use. The survey found that Canadian employees with Internet access at work averaged eight hours online per week, of which at least two hours were for personal reasons.
Another survey has claimed that 25 percent of employees admitted spending 10 to 30 minutes each workday surfing non-related work sites. A further 22 percent admitted spending 30 to 60 minutes each workday surfing nonrelated work sites. Astonishingly, 12 percent admitted spending one to two hours and 13 percent admitted spending more than two hours each workday surfing Internet sites unrelated to their jobs. Each of the above concerns can form a legitimate basis to monitor employees. Weighed against these concerns, however, are the privacy rights an employee may have.
4. Employee monitoring
Employee monitoring has become a major part to the employees in these days. In every workplace every employer should develop their company, gain their targets, profits through their way to success is must. So they should know whether their employees are working or not in their working hours. Employers are wishing to monitor the behaviors of the employees, performances, actually are they working, personal activities and restroom break etc.
Electronic monitoring is intrinsically no more invasive than traditional supervision. It is although never in origin. In today’s digital world, numerous employers are implementing employee monitoring software. On occasion, managers inform their staff that they are being monitored.
Employers use many methods to monitor their employees; Video surveillance, Computer monitoring, Spying, Investigators, Eavesdropping, Undercover operatives, Wiretapping, E- mail and Active badge systems are some of them.
Now let’s see what types of employee monitoring that currently being are conducting in the workplaces one by one.
a. Video surveillance
In the workplace employer use the video surveillance to monitor their employees’ activities, performances and behaviors through the cameras.
These cameras are placed in open and noticeable areas, while others may be installed secretly hidden. Mostly, employers are use tiny fish eye cameras because they will unnoticed after few days of the installation so employees are monitored by secretly, they do not know that they are present. But they provide very important surveillance information for the employers about their employees.
b. Computer monitoring
Computer monitoring is a system that monitors every work is gain with the computer by the employees. This system can check performance of the employee, spending time particular for those employees are involved in word processing and data entry, used to track the amount of time employees spend away from their computer or are idle at the terminal or to see what is stored in employees’ computer terminals and hard disks, Accessed websites as well as date, time, duration and frequency of visit, Online searches, File downloads and uploads, Software installations, The use of portable hard drives and other external media, Document printing, creation, reading, modification, copying, moving and deletion, Keyboard strokes, Sent and received email correspondence and attached documents, The transcripts of conversations that occur via chat or instant messaging applications, Usernames, passwords and account IDs, Launched applications, Screenshots of images displayed on computer screen.
This system allows management of the company to keep records of every employee performances, professional behaviors, aids in the appraisal review process and provides the information requirements to implement standards for performances of employees. Not only do this system allows employers to keep closer tabs on employees they also give employees access to information about their own performance, which they can then use to improve.
Spying is the next type of employee monitoring. This done when management or someone assigned by the management secretly observes other employees. Usually, other employees under investigation do not know what is going on.
d. Eavesdropping and wiretapping
Employers use eavesdropping and wiretapping as a common method in workplaces. Mostly, employees are using company telephone for make their personal calls. In this act employers may monitor calls with clients or customers for reasons of quality control. Employee, who answer telephone calls, all day are monitored in detail, which the exact number and duration of each call, and the idle time between calls, can go into an automatic log for analysis.
Employers may also use the monitoring of calls with clients to improve quality. The results of this method may assist employers and employees to serve customers better by determining when an employee needs additional training. It may also detect if any employee is giving critical information about the company to outsiders. Not every business is aware of this requirement, so employees’ calls might still be monitored without a warning.
e. Undercover operatives
In a workplace the communication, understanding and trustworthy between employer and employee is must. So employer should know about their employees, to gather information of the employees, they are using undercover operatives.
f. E- Mail monitoring.
Email has become the main communication method in the modern world because it’s simply and really private. But in the workplace which uses an email system, is not private, when the employees are using the mail system employer allowed to review all the activities. In this system Messages have sent, to where, the time and date, subject, content and everything can monitor by the employer. This includes web-based email accounts such as Gmail and Yahoo as well as instant messages. The same holds true for voice mail systems. In general, employees should not assume that these activities are not being monitored and are private.
E-mail systems retain messages in memory even after they have been deleted. Although it appears they are erased, they are often permanently “backed up” on magnetic tape, along with other important data from the computer system. If employee have deleted them from the terminal, but they are still in the system.
Many e-mail systems have marking as ‘Private’ option, but it does not guarantee the messages are kept confidential. An exception is when an employer’s written electronic mail policy states that messages marked “private” are kept confidential. Even in this situation, however, there may be exceptions.
g. Active badge systems
Active badges are given to the employees from their workplace that is a credit card sized badge that an employee wears on the outside of his or her clothing so movement can be monitored in a building using his or her unique ID. This badge is made with a small transmitting device and operating by a small lithium battery.
This transmitting device sensor distributes the workplace, pick up the signals from them and receives via a small network to located server. This server converts the transmitting signals to information that can access through the LAN.
Infrared sensors need to be placed in every room and corridor to track active badges as they move through a building. So employers can monitor their employees are available in the workplace or not. Through this system reduces telephone traffic, saves time, wasted journeys and saves cost of phone calls.
h. Social media monitoring
Many employers have social media policies that limit what employees can and cannot post on social networking sites about their employer. A website called Compliance Building has a database of social media policies for hundreds of companies. Employees should ask their supervisor or HR department what the policy is for their employer.
5. Ethical analyzing
When considering this workplace monitoring in ethically, we should discuss is this monitoring case good or bad? By the help of the ethical principles and theories analyze this.
Kantianism states that peoples’ actions must to be guided by moral laws, and that these moral laws are universal. Kant’ places a substantial importance on intention and states, ‘the only thing in the world that can be called good, without qualification is a good will.’ Kant established two categorical imperative expressions:
(1) Act only from moral rules that you can at the same time will to be universal moral laws.
(2) Act so that you always treat both yourself and other people as ends in themselves, and never as a means to an end.
According to the 1st expression, computer monitoring is unethical because if monitoring employees were ethical, then the proposed universal rule would be: ‘A person should spy on others to ensure his or her benefit.’ Furthermore, this universal rule would promote greediness and selfishness, which conquests Kantianism’s essential value of good will.
According to the 2nd expression, computer monitoring is wrong because employers are monitoring their subordinates as a means to earning a higher profit not as ends in themselves.
Through this all types of monitoring, employee’s privacy has been affected by employer in the workplace. But as a workplace employer should keep some regulations and privacy policies to maintain their company. An employer should monitor the activities of his employees that practicality demands. Employer believes that employee who knows that he is being watched and monitored by his employee is more likely to complete his work. Commonly employees do not devote the full 8 hours a day for company-related work, so employees are conducted to the task by their employer.
Let’s discuss what are the legal, ethical, professional and social issues of the workplace privacy?
a. Legal issues
As technologies advance, employees are seeing an increasing tendency for employers to take actions that limit their privacy. Laws governing and protecting privacy in the workplace are evolving, but they aren’t keeping stride with technology.
Protect from unreasonable publicity given to employee’s private life, prevent and detect crime, establish the existence of facts, avoiding indiscrimination and e-harassment, protect from unreasonable intrusion upon employee’s isolation and protect from appropriation of employee’s personal accounts/social networks/telephone conversation/voicemail are the situations that made a need to arise of these legislations.
When we are talking about the legal issues of workplace privacy, there are three main legislations. They are Electronic Communications and Privacy Act 1986, The Data Protection Act 1998 and Human Rights Act 1998
Electronic Communications and Privacy Act 1986(ECPA)was enacted to extend government restrictions on wire taps from telephone calls to include transmissions of electronic data by computer by the United States congress.
Title I of the ECPA protects wire, oral, and electronic communications while in transit. It sets down requirements for search warrants that are more stringent than in other settings. Title II of the ECPA protects communications held in electronic storage, most notably messages stored on computers. Title III prohibits the use of pen register and/or traps and trace devices to record dialing, routing, addressing, and signaling information used in the process of transmitting wire or electronic communications without a court order.
ECPA prohibits employers from intercepting e-mails, telephone calls, and faxes. But despite the general prohibitions of the ECPA, employers may generally monitor email and internet usage if the employee has consented to the monitoring. Consent is usually obtained by having the employee execute an acknowledgment of a computer and internet usage policy which makes clear that searches may occur, and that the employee has no reasonable expectation of privacy in the data stored on the office computer, or in any other communication medium. The policy should also make it clear that computers are to be used only for business purposes, and it should strictly prohibit unauthorized use of email or the internet for any other purpose, including but not limited to, downloading pornographic, offensive, or harassing communications, copyrighted or trade secret information, or any other non-business related information.
The Data Protection Act 1998(DPA) was enacted by United Kingdom law on the processing of data on identifiable living people. This is mainly legislation that governs the protection of personal data. When the employers are accessing the personal information of employee they should follow some data protection principles with this act. The act contains eight ‘Data Protection Principles’.
These specify that personal data must be:
1. Processed fairly and lawfully.
2. Obtained for specified and lawful purposes.
3. Adequate, relevant and not excessive.
4. Accurate and up to date.
5. Not kept any longer than necessary.
6. Processed in accordance with the ‘data subject’s’ (the individual’s) rights.
7. Securely kept.
8. Not transferred to any other country without adequate protection in situ.
Human Rights Act 1998 article 1 says, ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.’ And article 3 says, ‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.’ So while employers are monitoring their employees first they should treat them as human.
According to this workplace privacy legislations, when employers are monitoring they should tell their employees about the monitoring areas and should avoid some places as restrooms and try to give the employees a little bit privacy when they needed.
b. Social issue
In the workplace there is no any execution for employee’s privacy. In this monitoring case employee’s privacy has been affected in the workplace because the employer is watching their employees every moment. So the employee feels less freedom at the workplace. And electronic monitoring systems are always giving pressure to perform for employee. These ranges of stressful working situations those related to monitoring such as heavy workload, repetitive task, employees have no time to relaxation.This is highly violates Privacy Rights of the employee. Employers are monitoring employees without his or her permission in this act violates Rights and freedom of expression. Within this issues employee can suffer physically and mentally disorders because of the tension. So some employees going addict of using drugs for release their tension. Finally it may cause for having problems with their family and society also.
Employee monitoring in the workplace is not a random and illegal act of the employer. Because the employers are considered liable for failure to enact policies that will prevent the employees from engaging in unethical and illegal act it is only rightful and just for the employers to be allowed to monitor the activities of their employees to restrict them from violating existing company policy. In the same manner, employers pay the employees for the entire work hours.
As such, it is the right of the employees to determine whether the employees are devoting their time for the company.
Employees might also think that management just focus on the revenue generation than to provide proper relaxation that is inevitable for mental health and that mental health is the catalyst for quality production.
These assumption and perceptions adversely affect on the employees’ performance and privacy that they are bound to act as robot and they even has not any room to have friendly discussion on general issues etc., the highly restrict policy might disturb the employee confidence in the level that even might think in the rest room and locker they will also be vigilance.
In this report, I have discussed about this issue in professionally, ethically, socially and legally.
Finally I should say the both parties, who employee and employer must be honest to each other.
Commonly we know employees are not devoting their full working hours for the official work, this is a critical issue. So employers should monitor their employees to gain success in the business world, it is really competitive and hard. Every employer should implement company regulations and policies for the employees for handle them in good manner. I have given some recommendations for handle this issue in good manner and make the workplace a better one.
1. To ensure the workplace technologies are being used correctly the employer should implement privacy policies and signed in the employees for an agreement. When the employers are monitoring email and internet, the employees should be informed that their individual Internet activities might be automatically logged by a network surveillance system and later reviewed by the employer for legitimate business purposes. Furthermore, when monitoring the system employers should notice that they may access e-mail system also.
2. Employers should remind employees that when they surf the Internet or use e-mail it’s holding the workplace’s domain address, they are representing their workplace not only themselves in a public medium. So employers can implement privacy concerns and legislations about this issue and furthermore, the employer has the right to install monitoring and filtering software to block out or limit access to specific websites.
3. Prevent misuse of official telephone employer can provide a separate phone for employees private usage same time the employer should limit the usage with conditions. Such as emergency calls only. Then the misusing will be decreased and it may be improve the relationship between employer and employee.
4. Employees should understand that anyone who uses e-mail inappropriately or who visits inappropriate websites is subject to discipline. When they are using workplace technology resources, they should use them only for the official use.
5. Employee should not misuse official telephones for their personal usage, if they want to ensure the privacy, their personal calls should made by their own mobile phone or a separate phone designated by their employer for personal calls.
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