USA Employee Monitoring Laws: What Are Employers Allowed and not Allowed Doing in the Workplace?
Q: Do employers have the right to monitor the employees’ use of computers, such as desktops, laptops and servers, and their Internet activities?
A: Yes, employers have this right.
Local legislation varies, depending on the state, but in general it is legal for a company to monitor the usage of its own property, including, but not limited to, computers, laptops and cell phones.
« According to the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), an employer-provided computer system is the property of the employer. Therefore, employers that provide you with a computer system and Internet access are free to monitor almost everything that you do with the computer and Internet access with which you have been provided. This is especially true when an employer gives you a written policy regarding the monitoring of your computer use». (‘Social Networking & Computer Privacy’ by Workplace Fairness)
Q: Do employers have the right to monitor keystrokes, e-mail content and screens?
A: Yes, employers have this right.
Employers have the right (with some limitations) to monitor their property, including computers, phones and other electronic devices provided to the employees, as well as email addresses provided by employers. Limitations apply to employees’ private e-mails. Also, some states require employers to notify employees about monitoring.
«The technology exists for the employer to monitor almost any aspect of computer usage, such as:
• Internet use
• Software downloads
• Documents or files stored on your computer
• Anything that is displayed on your computer screen
• How long your computer has been idle
• How many key strokes you type per hour
• E-mails (outgoing or those sent within your office)
Although some federal laws (Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2511; Electronic Communication Storage Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2701; Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030) and state laws generally make it illegal for employers to intercept private e-mail or to use your personal log-on and password in order to access e-mails on an Internet Service Providers’ server, employers may monitor e-mail from the work e-mail address provided to you or monitor any e-mail stored on your work computer. Only two states, Connecticut and Delaware, require employers to notify employees that their e-mail is being monitored». (‘Workplace Privacy and Employee Monitoring’ by Privacy Rights Clearinghouse).
Q: How are employees protected from invasion of their privacy?
A: There are laws that protect employees’ personal data.
Employees are only protected by law in cases pertaining to the use of their personal electronic devices and personal emails. None of the employees’ personal data and devices may be monitored by the employer without notifying the employees.
A federal law, “The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (part of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, 18 USC sec. 2510 et seq.),” prohibits unauthorized interception of or access to electronic communications, including telephone, email and computer usage.
However, it only applies to the usage of personal devices, such as computers, laptops, cell phones, tablets, smartphones, etc.
«Employees are given some protection from computer and other forms of electronic monitoring under certain circumstances. Union contracts, for example, may limit the employer’s right to monitor. Also, public sector employees may have some minimal rights under the United States Constitution, in particular the Fourth Amendment which safeguards against unreasonable search and seizure». (‘Workplace Privacy and Employee Monitoring’ by Privacy Rights Clearinghouse).
Q: What do professional lawyers suggest?
A: They suggest being reasonable, when implementing the monitoring tool at the work place.
Professional lawyers suggest developing a clear and reasonable monitoring policy. Also, they suggest limiting monitoring to what is work related, and of course, the decision to monitor must be announced to the employees. (“Issues to Consider When Implementing an Employee Monitoring Program,” Robin Thomas, J.D., Managing Editor for Personnel Policy Service, Inc.).
Q: How may an employer adhere to what is work related when monitoring employees?
A: Professional lawyers advise, «Remember your business goals! »
According to professional lawyers’ recommendations, it is important to remember business goals, when monitoring employees. It helps greatly to ensure that monitoring pertains only to business without intrusion into the privacy of employees. This idea works when choosing your employee monitoring software. For example, if your goal is employee performance monitoring, then neither key logging nor screen recording helps you with this. However, software properly designed to show idle times or personal Internet usage time is helpful.
This article provides general information only. This information is for general understanding only and not to be used as legal advice. To receive professional legal advice, please consult your lawyer.
By WorkTime – Respectful Employee Performance Monitoring Software –www.worktime.com