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Privacy Issues in the Workplace: Tips for Employers

TIP #1: Know what constitutes an “Invasion of Privacy”

All private employees have a right to privacy; however, that right to privacy is not absolute. A plaintiff who brings a claim for invasion of privacy must first establish (a) an intrusion into a private place, conversation, or matter; (b) in a manner highly offensive to a reasonable person; and (c) an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy.

TIP #2: Managing Expectations of Privacy

How do employers balance their rights to protect information and their clients with an employee’s rights to privacy? The employer can develop an employment policy agreement and/or general policies and procedures that clearly and unequivocally spell out exactly what the employee should expect from the employer in terms of monitoring data or computers. If the employee is on notice of those things the employer is doing to protect the information, an employee should have a lessened expectation of privacy or no expectation of privacy at all depending on the circumstances.

TIP #3: Policies…we don’t need no stinking policies!

Policies that govern the use of the employer’s communications equipment and systems improve workplace security and protects employees from unfair accusations by others.

If an employee has access to any of the following – E-mail, text messaging, instant messaging, company or personal cell phones or blackberry-like devices, company owned or personal laptop, desktop computer, tablet, notebook, netbook, smartphone, as well as Internet access, Intranet systems, Virtual Private Network, voice mail, confidential information, valuable equipment, valuable merchandise – the employer should have in effect a relevant policy governing its use.

TIP #4: Acknowledgments

Whether the employers’ policies are contained within an Employee Handbook or provided to the employee via separate memorandum, the policy(ies) themselves and their receipt by the employee should be separately acknowledged in writing.

TIP #5: Updating

Technology is ever changing. As new technology is introduced in the workplace the employer should review existing policies to determine if current policies should be updated or new policies developed and implemented.*

* No Legal Advice Intended: This website includes information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on your specific legal problems.

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