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
Updated to include an amendment relating to an employer's ability to offer tobacco cessation programs, effective November 1, 2017.
Updated to reflect forthcoming state 'ban the box' law.
Updated to reflect New York City 'ban the box' final regulations, effective August 5, 2017.
Updated to include amendments regarding the smoking of marijuana in the workplace, to the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment Act of 2016, and to the Arkansas Whistleblower Act, effective July 31, 2017.
Updated to include information on case regarding reasonable accommodations for medical marijuana users.
Updated to include medical marijuana law containing implementing guidelines, effective June 23, 2017.
Updated to include retaliation protections in the forthcoming domestic violence leave law.
Updated to include West Virginia Safer Workplace Act, effective July 7, 2017.
HR and legal considerations for employers regarding employee privacy. Privacy issue guidance on subjects such as social media and surveillance.