We have mentioned before on our San Diego employment law blog that advancements in technology and social media have been making it easier for employers to learn more about their employees or prospective employees.
While laws have recently been changed in California to create more privacy protections for employees when it comes to what employers can ask to see on employees' social media sites, other laws that give employers the ability to monitor quite a bit of what employees say and do remain unchanged.
Workers may expect that their employers have a responsibility to respect their privacy, even when employees are at work. However, there are certain things employers can do without permission from employees. In order to protect one's job, it is best to have an understanding of what exactly employers can do when it comes to monitoring employees. Employees should also be aware of what employers cannot do in order to determine whether employers are violating their privacy rights in the workplace.
Here is a list of a few of the things employers can do:
- Employers can read employees' emails. When employees use work-issued computers and their companies' servers to send emails from work or personal accounts, employers may have the right to read and monitor those emails. Employees who wish to send personal emails throughout the workday may want to consider using their personal electronic devices to do so.
- Employers can listen to some phone calls employees make or receive while at work. When personal phone calls are made or accepted on work phones, employers do not have the right to listen to the phone calls once employers realize the phone calls are personal and not work-related. Employers can listen to all work-related phone calls, though.
- Employers may be able to read employees' text messages. When employees use their work phones to send personal text messages, employers may have a right to read employees' personal text messages. However, employers cannot access personal text messages sent on phones that are not owned by employers as long as an employer's Wi-Fi network is not used when sending personal messages.
If you believe that your privacy protections have been violated in the workplace, you may want to consider speaking with an attorney as soon as possible in order to learn more about your legal options.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "What privacy rights do I have in the workplace?" April 8, 2013