With so much at stake, the urge to monitor your employees' behavior is natural and expected. However, employees have a basic rights to personal privacy that you, as the employer, must respect. Violating these rights not only reflects poorly on you as an employer/business owner - it may also result in legal consequences. This week, our employment attorney in Lake Ozark, MO is here to help you understand some general guidelines about workplace privacy laws.
Things Employers Need To Know About Workplace Privacy
1. If You Own It, You Can Search It.
As an employer, you rarely (if ever) have the right to search your employees' personal belongings or devices. However, if your company owns the items in question, you have a right to search it if you believe you may find evidence that your employee is violating the law or your company's policies. Cars, laptops, phones, and other electronic devices are examples of items that you may be able to search.
2. You Can Listen In, But Not In Secret.
Employees are generally not allowed to take extended personal calls on office phone lines, for obvious reasons. Supervisors are typically allowed to monitor corporate calls to ensure that employees are handling client calls appropriately and that they aren't violating the company's rules about personal phone calls. However, it is wise to make sure that your employees know that you may choose to listen in on phone calls occasionally. Having new hires sign a waiver expressing this understanding may be a smart practice.
3. You Can Monitor Employees' Web Usage.
If your employees waste hours per week (or per day) browsing the web in ways that aren't related to work, they're not only hurting your company's overall productivity - they are essentially stealing from you by taking payment for time that was not spent working. Understandably, you may wish to monitor and, if necessary, restrict your employees' web usage while on company premises. Social media sites and sites containing adult content are common examples of websites that employers may choose to block. Generally speaking, blocking these sites from your employees' individual browsers or from your company's entire internet network is within your rights.
4. Off The Clock Is Out Of Your Jurisdiction.
Employees are crucial to the life of your business, but they are entitled to lives of their own as well. What your employees choose to do when they are not on the clock is their own business. You are not allowed to monitor their web activity, texts, or phone calls when they are off the clock, for example, nor are you allowed to track where they go or whom they spend time with.
5. It's Better To Be Better Safe Than Sorry.
As a general rule, you are welcome to closely monitor employees while they are on the clock, on company premises, or using the company's belongings. However, when they are on their own time or using their own items, it is best to give their privacy a wide berth.
If you have questions about whether or not certain searches or monitoring efforts are within your legal rights, don't hesitate to reach out to our employment lawyer at the Lake of the Ozarks. We can evaluate your specific situation to determine the best course of action. It is better to be proactive than to risk violating privacy laws!
Remember, your initial consultation with Gibbons Law Firm is always free.
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Gibbons Law Firm
2820 Bagnell Dam Blvd, Suite B4
Lake Ozark, MO 65049
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