Workers’ Right to Privacy in the Workplace

Privacy in Workplace

What privacy obligations do you think you are entitled to in the workplace? You may think you are entitled to more than you actually receive. In the private sector, workplace privacy rights are virtually non-existent. In fact, it is estimated that up to 92% of private sector employers monitor their employees to some extent electronically. Most do so without their employees’ consent or knowledge. A recent Supreme Court decision regarding explicit texts sent on company-owned pagers is seen by privacy advocates as a blow to the rights of individuals in the workplace.

According to recent surveys such as the Electronic Monitoring and Surveillance Survey, 45 percent of employers monitor keystrokes, content viewed and time spent on the keyboard. Email is also monitored by many companies. Of the 43% of companies that monitor email, 73% use technology tools to automatically monitor email, while some employees read and monitor email manually. Employers can spy on their employees in this way, especially since they have the right to protect their buildings and office facilities. So security takes legal precedence over workers’ rights to privacy at work.

In addition, 46% monitor the length of phone calls and numbers dialed, and 16% even record employee conversations. But most companies (84%) inform their employees about the phone call and voicemail monitoring. While many states are considering different versions of data protection laws. The reality is that only these two states actually enforce them.

Electronic surveillance is pervasive in modern society. It has become a portion of our daily lives. Traffic cameras show motorists speeding or ignoring red lights, many building surveillance cameras can even see outside the building, and almost every store has some type of video surveillance system. This may be the price we pay for our relative safety. The same is true for Track Employee Activity in the workplace. Have we become safer because of such surveillance? If so, have we paid a price for the loss of our privacy? Or should your employer have the right to monitor everything you do on their site? These are interesting questions that evoke strong feelings on both sides.