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What are employee rights to privacy on the job?

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. What you do behind the four walls of your own home is widely considered to be nobody's business but yours. The same level of privacy does not translate into the workplace. To be sure that you know what you can and can't expect and how you can protect your rights on the job, it's important for a worker in California to know the limits.

For example, you may understand that your company-issued computer is not protected as being your private property. That makes sense. The company owns the equipment. As such, your employer has the right to keep an eye on how it's used.

What you may not appreciate is that the same goes for your workspace. The company, of the government if you work in that sector, owns the physical desk, drawers and even locker that may be assigned to you. That being so courts have regularly ruled that employees don't have an expectation of privacy where those things are concerned. This even applies if you drive a company-owned car.

The upshot of all this is that your employer has wide legal latitude to conduct searches when it is deemed appropriate. Searches of the material on your computer are typically allowed, as well. Employers also can monitor and perhaps block the things you decide to search for on the Internet.

Restrictions may exist but it depends on what the laws are of your state. It might also depend on whether you are represented by a union. Negotiated contracts may limit what actions your employer can take.

If you feel your rights have been violated, but aren't sure, you should contact an attorney immediately.

Source: FindLaw, "Privacy at Work: What Are Your Rights?" accessed Dec. 11, 2015

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