Employee privacy rights are a BIG issue and hot news when it comes to today’s job market. Your reputation and ability to get and or keep a job all depend on how you are protecting your privacy. There are a number of new technologies that allow employers to track the activities of their staff on a day to day basis. That being said, there are certain legal obligations and respects that the company has to show to their staff, but in many instances the final say is left to them. All this comes together under the umbrella of “employee privacy rights”. In understanding the issue on a grand scale, it should be noted that there are very few federal laws and even fewer state laws that determine how an employee’s rights should provisioned.
Here are a few of the categories that most employees are concerned with – alongside corresponding information – as it relates to employee privacy rights:
There is a slight difference between private organizations and public organizations. There are no specific laws that highlight that a private entity needs to protect the personal information of their staff. Operating in good faith, organizations are encouraged to treat all details pertaining to an individual’s characteristics or their family as confidential. Any potential disclosure of information should be to those who have legal or legitimate reasons, and even so it should be upon consent from the employee.
As a safety precaution, no document bearing their social security number should be released.
This applies to all conversations that take place between an employee and a customer. For quality assurance purposes, the employer will listen to as well as record every phone call that passes through the company switchboard.
It is advised that personal calls be made with a mobile phone as this is the only way to guarantee that the call will not be recorded. Not everyone monitoring the system will take the time out to ensure that a personal call made from a work phone will not be recorded.
Online monitoring (Emails etc)
In most instances, employer’s reserve the right to review the content of all emails that are sent and received through their internal system. Where it becomes tricky in some cases is when the employer through the different technology utilized, has the possibility of monitoring your usage on personal email domains and instant messaging platforms.
There are constant debates on the topic and each state has different legislation as it relates to the act. Notably, there are some states which do not certain policies on the matter – largely due to the fact that the issue has never occurred – so there is no precise way to determine what is the proper procedure or course of action in these instances.
Most companies employ the policy of performing random drug tests on their staff. Though the test itself is random, there are still guidelines and documentation that they should have, which outlines to the employees exactly what is expected of them. In addition, the consequences of a failed drug test should also be detailed.
This is arguably the most sensitive due to the fact that it raises concerns of employee harassment. Upon entering and leaving the premises, some organizational policies indicate that an employee should be subject to a search – in some cases based on probable cause, in others it is simply a matter of protocol.
Whether it is a search of property (bag, vehicle etc) or person, consent is generally a requirement. It cannot be exercised forcefully.
There are many organizations that will contact a current employer as a means of performing a background check for information on an aspiring candidate. While they are not obligated to disclose the information, there are also no laws which prevent them from doing so.
As outlined above, by operating in good faith an employer will always seek the approval of the employee before releasing any information about them or their duties.
Social media policies
A growing topic as it relates to employee rights is the consequences of employee actions on social media platforms. When the phenomenon just began to gain prominence there was not much backlash, however, more and more organizations are now implementing measure to guide their staff’s posts and comments.
There have been instances where social media posts have caused employees to lose their jobs, but this is specifically in instances where there has been harm caused to the organization. There are states such as California and Colorado that prohibit an employer from taking action against an employee for any social media activity executed will off the clock.
The purpose of the various policies is to ensure that both the company and its staff are in a position to be mutually efficient at all times. There has to be a standard that all parties abide by and not simply go about their daily operations without any specific modus operandi. The details pertaining to all the relevant topics any member of staff would be interested in are predominantly documented in an employee handbook. This would be passed on to each employee before they start so that they can fully align themselves with the requirements of the organization and know what does and does not apply to them.
Not every employ will know how to handle certain situations that may arise between themselves and the organization. For those who find themselves in such a position, there are a under of entities geared towards assisting employees with these issues specifically. In addition to this, the human resource department of the company should be able to act as the mediator for those who are unaware of how to handle the differences.