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Work Place Monitoring: How Much Is Too Much?

2306 words - 9 pages

Work Place Monitoring: How much is too much?To Snoop or Not to Snoop?What limits are there to employers' intrusions into, and/or control over, employees behaviors? To what extent is monitoring an employee acceptable? Interestingly, there are plenty of studies and surveys that indicate that this business practice is definitely on the rise. An illustration of this growth can be seen in a feature article by U.S. News and World Reports, (April 2001) which includes statistics on the growth of companies that monitor their employees from 1997 to 2001.Percentage of companies that monitor employees...1997 2001Total active monitoring* 35.3 pct. 77.7 pct.Monitoring Internet connections** 54.162.8Storage and review of E-mail messages 14.946.5Storage and review of computer files 13.736.1Recording/reviewing phone conversations 10.411.9Storage and review of voice-mail messages 5.311.8*Excluding telephone logs, logging on/off computer, and normal videosurveillance for security purposes. **2000 figure.Employee privacy is one of the most controversial areas concerning personnel in the public sector. Claims of privacy abuse are measured against an employer's prerogatives in establishing workplace standards and ensuring the efficiency of administration.Monitoring of employees in the workplace can create conflicts between employer and employee. The problems increase as technological advances change the nature of work, communication, and supervisory functions in the workplace. This conflict reconsiders the basic questions as to what is private, what is proprietary, what legal rights an employee possesses, and what are an employee's obligations and responsibilities within the sphere of employment.To most, privacy is seen as need for "personal space", which is directly tied to the Fourth Amendment, which holds that, "It is the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures."Privacy in the workplace has also been asserted on the basis of First Amendment, which states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."The exchange of speech between persons should be allowed without redress as long as that speech does not, in some way, threaten the employer or the business. Therefore, the monitoring by the employer of employee conversations in lounges during breaks would definitely be regarded as a monitoring of behaviors outside the employer's sphere of interest, which is not only illegal, but also unethical.The heightened expectation of privacy attached to oral conversations is recognized in legislation like the Federal Wiretap Act, which prohibits both private and public employers from intercepting and recording the "wire communications" of employees. It is the conversation that...

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