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Every Breath You Take; I'll Be Watching You

3176 words - 13 pages

Introduction"Employers want to be sure their employees are doing a good job, but employees don't want their every sneeze or trip to the water cooler logged. That's the essential conflict of workplace monitoring" ("Employee Monitoring: Is There Privacy," 2002, para. 1).The right to privacy is one of the foundation blocks upon which America was built, and it is echoed in the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Employee privacy is perceived to be one of the key issues in the workplace, and employers are viewed as frequently infringing upon the rights of their employees. The prevalence of employer invasions of employee privacy is not isolated to the workplace. In some instances, employers monitor the nature of co-workers' off-duty activities, and many companies routinely perform background checks."In O'Connor v. Ortega the United States Supreme Court held that a public employee has a reasonable expectation of privacy concerning his or her office desk and filing cabinets. However, "a public employer may search an employee's desk or drawers either for non-investigatory work-related purposes or for investigations of work-related conduct, so long as the search is conducted in a reasonable manner" (Anton and Ward, 1998, p. 898, para. 4).This means that suspicious activities, real or imagined in the eyes of the employer, are areas, which will enable employee's privacy rights to be infringed upon. The United States of America was founded on one fundamental tenet; freedom for the individual. One of the perquisites these freedoms afford American society is privacy. Most persons believe this privacy extends to our place of employment: the computer we use, the telephone calls we make, and the e-mail we send. In the United States, our privacy ends when we enter our place of employment, whether it is the physical space or the virtual network we connect to from home. The Internal Revenue Service defines the employer - employee relationship as;"Every individual who performs services subject to the will and control of an employer, both as to what shall be done and how it shall be done, is an employee. It does not matter that the employer allows the employee considerable discretion and freedom of action, as long as the employer has the legal right to control both the method and the result of the services" (2005, para.1).This statement by the Federal Government ensures the tacit authority of employers over their employees in the private sector.The number of employees who work remotely is increasing rapidly and, as a result, the line where work ends and personal time has begun to blur. The question then becomes: where do the rights of the employer to monitor the employee begin and end? If a person is employed in the U. S. and has signed off on their company's policy, he or she most likely has given the employer explicit authorization to read their e-mails (both work related and personal if sent using the corporate mail system), track their internet use,...

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