Where Is the Line?
Employers have a right to monitor certain behaviors and communications in the workplace, but where does the line between employer protection and employee privacy limits begin? Employees may be surprised how far into their seeming privacy the line is drawn.
Assume Things Are Recorded
It’s not exactly “Big Brother is watching.” Businesses are now finding it necessary to record activity and communications — thus affecting customers and employees. Employers can record and monitor what is done on computers (or other equipment) used in the workplace. This includes what employees access via the Internet. Employer-based email systems likely log all messages on a server, so they can be retrieved even if you delete them. If employers take advantage of such technology, it’s not usually to push employee privacy limits. Businesses generally audit or monitor computer use to ensure high productivity levels, protect the brand from data security breaches, or to avoid other problems.
The same holds true to phone calls. Employers can record and monitor phone calls, texts, and messages sent and received from company-provided calls. Some businesses monitor random calls to ensure quality of customer service. However, employers aren’t supposed to listen to calls that are personal in nature. In California, employers are also required to warn callers via a beep or message that calls are recorded.
Don’t Rely on Employee Privacy Limits for Protection
Don’t rely on employee privacy limits to protect personal information or reputation. Whether you’re an employer or employee, reflect upon these guidelines:
- When on a work computer, keep things professional.
- Be aware of social media sites or websites related to personal browsing. If you need to have a personal conversation, use a mobile phone.
- For utmost privacy, step away from a common working area or make the call outside of the office.
- There’s no need to be paranoid. That said, take precautions to keep things personal, professional and appropriate in the workplace.
What are your thoughts about employee privacy limits? Too strict? Too lax?