Can They Do That?! Technology Allows Employers to Track Their Workers

Many people go to work every day and use technology supplied by their employers such as computers, email accounts, and land lines. Many even take some of that technology out of the office with a company vehicle or a smart phone. In some ways, having so much technology paid for by the company dime can sound like a real perk of the job. But often employees find out they are paying in other ways. All over the world some employers are crossing the line when it comes to their employee's privacy. In Europe some employees have been required to have microchips implanted in their bodies in order to access facilities, and Australian truck drivers are monitored through brain scans to determine whether they are fatigued. Closer to home, in California, a woman was recently fired after uninstalling an application on her company smartphone that could track her every move, whether she was on the clock or not. Her boss even knew when she was speeding, and it led to her filing a lawsuit.

Privacy and Technology

While new technology is often passed off as a handy tool, the lines are easily blurred when it comes to the most appropriate way to use it that will help companies improve while respecting both employees and applicant tools. In addition to privacy issues, some employers are conducting evaluations of employees and/or applicants through gamification processes. Some of these "games" tend to weed out minorities and can call into question an employer's compliance with equal opportunity laws as well. Employment status has also been called into question with many people working as independent contractors who may not be eligible for many of the same protections as an employee.

Where Privacy Ends

For those who work for a private employer, the right to privacy is somewhat limited, but employees still should have a "reasonable expectation of privacy." Employees should be able to expect that private areas, such as restrooms and locker rooms, will not be watched by their employers.

Other areas where employees commonly complain that privacy is breached include:

  • the improper searching of drawers and lockers,
  • questioning about sexual orientation,
  • using photos or video of an employee for company purposes, such as marketing without their consent,
  • or revealing private and sometimes unflattering information about an employee publicly or to coworkers.
Conducting surveillance in places that are not clearly open can also cross the line.

Beyond these reasons, an employees right to privacy is limited. An employees browsing history on the company computer, emails they send, and even some shopping can be monitored by employers. Many companies have an official privacy policy that their employees must agree to, and which can be periodically modified as time goes by, and those who don't agree with the policy risk losing their jobs.

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If you feel that your privacy has been invaded in your job, or if you've felt compelled to leave your place of employment or was fired while trying to assert your right to privacy, an employment rights lawyer may be able to help you defend your position and possibly receive compensation depending on the extent of the privacy violation.