Overview: Employee privacy laws cover everything from the monitoring of employee communications including phone, email, internet and social media at work to the protection of employee records and confidential information. Considerations of employee privacy also impact employer monitoring of employee conduct as well as searching of personal and employer-provided property.
It is best practice for an employer to develop and implement policies that address privacy in the workplace and employee expectations. Employers should aim to strike a balance between monitoring the workplace and respecting employee rights. Employers should have a legitimate business reason for engaging in any conduct which impacts employee privacy rights. Further, it may be advisable to obtain employee consent where possible when engaging in any monitoring or surveillance.
Trends: Privacy is one of the hottest and most volatile subjects in the workplace today, and deservedly so. From employee social media use to the use of GPS devices to monitor employee conduct, the landscape of employee privacy is constantly changing based on new technologies and developments. Employers should also be aware that state and federal governments have shown a willingness to legislate a variety of topics ranging from protection of genetic information to wiretapping and social media to data protection.
Author: Beth P. Zoller, JD, Legal Editor
Illinois has amended its Eavesdropping Act to specifically define "private conversation." The amendments are effective immediately.
Employers seeking to reserve their right to conduct reasonable searches, establish an appropriately diminished expectation of privacy for employees and establish the appropriate scope of any search should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Employers seeking to notify employees of employer monitoring, measures to protect employee privacy and the strict prohibition against unauthorized or improper use of video surveillance footage should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Employers that issue electronic devices, including computers, tablets and cell phones, to employees and seek to protect company confidential information should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
A new Delaware law, effective January 1, 2015, will require employers to take additional steps to safely destroy documents containing personal identifying information.
Rhode Island has enacted the 2014 Student and Employee Social Media Privacy Acts.
HR and legal considerations for employers regarding employee privacy. Privacy issue guidance on subjects such as social media and surveillance.