Employers Rights and Privacy Laws

An Employers Right to Protect their Property and Assets
Beatrice Wells
September 10, 2010
Axia College at the University of Phoenix

When a company hires an employee there are a few expectations that they want to be met. Come to work, on time and be prepared to work. A lot of companies use technology such as computers, smart phones, telephones and other forms of communication all of which can be tempting entertainment for some people. While it is okay to use these forms of communication on your own time and on your own devices; it is in no way acceptable to use company time and property to do such things.
When employers install computers with internet capabilities it is usually their belief, and rightfully so, that these systems are going to be used as tools of business not personal use (GAO Reports). Yet International Data Corporation states that between 30- 40% of all worker lost productivity can be contributed to employee web surfing (Gale Encyclopedia). What are these employees doing on the internet Well they are sending e-mails, downloading videos/ music, and even shopping online to name a few. According to recent studies, at least 10% of companies have received subpoenas because of e-mails that an employee has sent from work (Communications of the ACM). Many wonder what the problem with surfing the web is; especially on down time First, there is the potential that they could be jeopardizing company information because it makes it easier for hackers to access information if you are on the web (GAO Reports). It is the duty of companies to protect the sensitive company information whether it is client??™s names and numbers or financial figures. It can also be costly for a company if a virus from downloaded material infected their network.
Many claim that monitoring workplace communication is a violation of privacy laws, but the ECPA of 1986 excludes employers by stating that access to electronic communications can be accessed by system providers; employers who pay for and provide internets access and phone lines (GAO Reports). Employers are also allowed to monitor communications for quality control purposes, to prevent sexual harassment and for unauthorized use of equipment under the ECPA of 1986 (Communications of the ACM). It is actually pretty difficult for employees to successfully sue companies for violations of privacy practices because laws state that you must have a ???reasonable expectation of privacy??? for a company to be in violation. Many people have recognized that their communications can be monitored when they sign the consent form at their time of hire.
It seems like the simple solution would be the long practiced policy of keeping work separate from home. Most employees are not hired to surf the web, and it can be destructive to company property. If something is really that pressing you should probably excuse yourself from work until you have controlled the situation. After all you would not want your employer to come to your house on Saturday afternoon to give you a stack of work to do on your playtime so why would you use his dollar and work time to take care of personal communication


Communications of the ACM. E-Monitoring in the Workplace: Privacy, Legislation, and Surveillance Software. (August 2006.) Communications of the ACM, 49 (8) 73.
Gale Encyclopedia. Privacy: Issues, Policies, Statements. Gale Encyclopedia of E-Commerce. Ed. Malonis, J. Vol 2. Detroit: Gale 2002. P 607- 611. Gale Virtual Reference Library. http://galegroup.com. Accessed Sept 10, 2010.
GAO Reports. Employee Privacy: Computer use Monitoring Practices and Policies of Selected Companies: GAO 02-717. GAO Reports, 1. (2002). Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier Databases September 10, 2010.