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In the modern society, employee surveillance has been a common phenomenon in the workplace. The major issue arising is on how surveillance should be carried out in order individual privacy is not jeopardized. The modern setting in the workplace is full of many issues which might put the success of a company in jeopardy. It is thus the mandate of the employer in the workplace to introduce the necessary surveillance. Ethical consideration is vital in determining how electronic surveillance should be undertaken. In the process of earning living, workers are normally introduced to privacy-invasive monitoring. Some of these monitoring include; video monitoring, instant message monitoring, e-mail monitoring, drug monitoring, phone monitoring and internet monitoring. Some of the reasons why employers monitor their workers include; sexual harassment and security threats (Lyon David, 2002).
Monitoring in the workplace may reduce employee morale as well as introducing stress in the workplace. There are laws which have been set up in United States featuring on workplace surveillance. Despite of the existence of such laws, employees have less opportunity to question what is set up by their employers (Kelly Eileen P, 2001). Workplace privacy is covered in laws such as Privacy Act which was passed in 1974. The Privacy Act was set on revelation that many employers harness a lot of employee information which may intrude to individual privacy. Communication privacy is covered in The Electronic Communication Act which was passed in1986. This paper examines electronic surveillance in the workplace. Electronic surveillance involves use of telephone in tracking information, video recording or use of other electronic devices such as camera and internet activity.
It is possible that employees' internet activity can be monitored by employers. There has been many attributes towards surveillance of employees internet activity. Experts in the legal system advocate for surveillance of employees internet activity. There are various reasons why internet activity of employees should be monitored. It is necessary to monitor internet activity of employees so as to eliminate potential litigation against employers. Those employers who have not been in a position to monitor the activities of their employees have suffered a lot. They have faced consequences such as discrimination and harassment. It is sometimes costly to do away with such practices in the workplace. Thus, employers should take necessary measure to monitor their employees before things get out of hand.
Although it might seem as an intrusion to individual privacy, employers can be in a position to monitor what their employees are doing in the internet (Norris Clive, 1999). This may include monitoring what is being downloaded from the internet. In the event of being employed, employees are normally furnished with the company's policies in terms of a handbook. The employee handbook lays clearly the mandates of the employee while in the company. This includes the rights and the obligations of the employees are bonded by "no expectation of privacy" once they are in the company. This means that employees' electronic communications is not exempted from monitoring by employers. This can be done within certain duration while in the company. Despite all this, employees' internet activity can only be monitored while in the workplace (Garsten Christina, 2003). This can not be done while employees are out of the workplace. Employees should not also be forced to avail private emails sent through service providers. In the case where a company has its own servers; it is legally allowed to control the emails in their servers. All the computers of the company can be examined. This includes accessing the caches of the electronic equipment. Caches provide browsing history which may avail essential information to employers. Monitoring of employee internet activity can be achieved by setting monitoring devices at certain strategic places. The devices are set in remote areas so that employees can not detect them.
The issue of confidentiality should not be confused with privacy in the workplace. There is normally a difference between these two and mostly where electronic communication is involved. In the event of unveiling any alarming issue during monitoring, employers should take necessary measures to reveal the truth. This should not be publicized but the concerned individual should be questioned. For instance in the case where a strong email is found relating something bad to a supervisor of an employee, the employee behind the email should be questioned and necessary measures taken. Anything unveiled during monitoring is considered as a company property. Employee monitoring is mostly essential where in the case of a conflict, legal system is involved. Another major electronic monitoring is the video surveillance.
Video Surveillance has been widely used in monitoring the workplace. Recent reports indicate that majority of the small businesses in United sates make use of video surveillance in monitoring their employees. All the activities in the workplace are recorded with aid of cameras mounted at strategic points. Cameras are mounted at sensitive areas such as gas stations and grocery stores. In the case where privacy is of importance to employees, measures can be taken using tort law (Mishra Jitendra M, 1998). For instance if the cameras are placed in bathrooms, this involves intrusion of privacy which is protected in the tort law. Cameras are normally mounted where a lot of activities are taking place and where many workers are being involved. Cameras have also been used in the homestead to protect property and safeguard children. This normally used to monitor the works of housekeepers. Everything which occurs is recorded by these cameras which mounted in the open.
According to the US laws, video surveillance should be undertaken under certain conditions. The cameras should focus or concentrate on areas which are accessible by the public. They should not be set or used where privacy is of essence. For instance, they should not be used in private places such as bathrooms. When this happens, employees can take necessary measures being guided by the tort laws.
In the case where unions are available in the workplace, the issue of whether to use video surveillance is negotiable. This is stipulated in the US legal laws. This decision was arrived at by NRLB in the year 1997. This means that employers should first bargain with the union before setting up video surveillance for employees. During the bargaining on the issue of video surveillance, employers are supposed to give full details on where to install the cameras and the purpose of installing them. This sets up the bargaining environment. This is covered in the Colgate decision (Hovorka-Mead Audra D, 2002). The issue of unveiling where to install the cameras raised may questions arguing that by giving details about where cameras would be installed would affect the essence of the cameras. This was not changed even after subsequent appeals. Colgate-Palmolive doctrine was affirmed further by a court of appeal.
Practical problems are experienced as a result of the bargaining decisions. Employees come to realize that surveillance is being carried on even the union decides to keep secret the location of the cameras. Unions might be convinced to keep secret a on the issue of video surveillance (Watson Nathan, 2001). They may keep secret in the case where illegal activity needs to be tracked. This might not be possible since surveillance may be done on union members. This may lead to ligation in case termination of union members occurs.
Those companies which do not have unions may experience hurdles. On top of Federal laws, other laws have been set on the issue of video surveillance. Video surveillance should not go against the federal statutes. Other monitoring devices such as telephone devices, oral conversation and cell phone are covered in a statute which was passed in 968. This federal statute underwent various amendments in subsequent years. Other electronic communications are also covered in this statute. The statute provides some penalties for violation. The charges depend on the degree of violation or severity. Damages may be charged on responsible individuals.
In conclusion, both employees and employers are answerable to the privacy laws in the workplace. Electronic monitoring has been widely used in United States. This include; telephone monitoring, internet monitoring, video monitoring, e-mail monitoring amongst other monitoring mechanisms. Monitoring in the workplace is important due to certain issues such as sexual harassment and security threats. Exposure of company information may be costly to the company. Thus, monitoring is essential to reveal any planned data exposure. In United Sates Video monitoring is widely used in the workplace. According to recent reports, most of the companies in United States employ surveillance in the workplace.
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