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OF Organisational Behaviour Employee¶s privacy issues
By Mohd Asif Anis M.B.A(IB) Section A 3rd Semester
Privacy is considered by many to be the most important legal issue of the 21st century. With the explosion of communications technology since the late 20th century, privacy laws regarding cell phones, text messaging, emails, and voicemail are still very rudimentary where they exist at all. Workplace privacy may be one of the stickiest areas regarding privacy law, as a line is yet to be clearly drawn dividing employer rights from employee privacy. Most often, workplace privacy issues swirl around the controversy of how closely an employer can monitor its employees. Some companies have invested considerable time in creating privacy guidelines meant to explain exactly what is and is not allowed in terms of monitoring, but these guidelines are almost never legally binding. In some cases they may even be used to create a false sense of security among employees. Most experts suggest avoiding the whole messy business of workplace privacy by never using company computers or cell phones for anything other than company business, but various complications can still ensue, resulting in legal consequences. In most places, employers have the right to listen to phone calls, read email and text messages, and even monitor workplace conversations. Information gathered from this monitoring is used to measure employee efficiency and performance. Some companies may put safeguards on company property to prevent misuse, such as blocking certain websites or forbidding down loads of anything not related to company issues. Yet even if a company states that employees are allowed to use computers and other property for personal use, there is legal precedent showing that employers can lie about policy and monitor personal activity regardless of claims or policy to the contrary. Company ethics policies further complicate issues of workplace privacy. Some companies require that employees sign agreements that stipulate ethics both in and outside of the workplace. Arrests, recreation al drug use, or even legal activity such as drinking may be used as grounds for firing or punishing an employee, even if the activity occurred outside the workplace and had no bearing or ill effect on job performance. Employees constitute another group wh ose Internet use has come under increasing scrutiny. Work-place surveillance pits employers' financial interests, the protection of corporate intellectual property, workplace productivity, and security against the privacy rights of employees. International Data Corporation (IDC) attributes 30 to 40 percent of all lost worker productivity to personal Web surfing on company time; this costs U.S. companies about $54 billion annually. According to the American Management Association, in 2000 nearly 75 percent o f all major U.S. companies monitored
employee communications, including telephone calls, e -mail, and Internet connections; this represented nearly twice the percentage that did so in 1997. Frequently the supervision of employee behavior falls to the inform ation technology (IT) department, though increasingly U.S. firms also hire CPOs ² Chief Privacy Officers. Many companies use monitoring software that scans not only Web-site URLs, but the actual content of Web pages, to determine whether employees' online activity is linked to their workplace duties.
Employee Privacy Rights In Workplace
These employee privacy rights workplace intrusions are predicted to increase as time goes on. settings have brought two opposing points of view to the forefront for employers. When dealing with privacy issues in workplace situations, employers are duty bound to maintain an environment that is not hostile to workers. The courts have passed laws concerning hat the employer increasingly has to observe and respect.
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race ethnicity sexual orientation age gender social or economic background and religion
Employer Responsibility Employers are constantly challenged not to violate any of the aforementioned areas of privacy rights in the workplace. Employers are facing increasing legal hot water for the employee misuse of company ± owned computer systems. While protecting its customers, investors and workers, employers have to make certain the use of its systems do not cause damage. Employee Responsibility Invasion of employee privacy complaints can result when employers seek to enforce the appropriate use of electronic systems policies or violates its own policies.
Generally speaking, privacy rights are granted by specific laws, rules, or regulations. Some of those rights apply in the workplace and some don't. And even if there is no specific law, a right to privacy can be based on the legal common law concept of having a "reasonable expectation of privacy." For employers and employees, privacy issues have become increas ingly prevalent in the workplace, and with the increased use of electronic resources, privacy at work is even more complex. So it is important that managers and supervisors have a basic understanding of a few of the more frequent privacy rights and issues that can arise, as well as the boundaries that may apply. There are several areas of human capital management in which privacy rights are established. Whether federal, state, or local law creates the right, you should be aware of the issues. Here is a general overview:
Personnel Records: Employees generally have a right to privacy in their personnel records, except in a few specific circumstances. That means employers are generally not permitted to disclose personnel records to third parties without a legal obligation to do so or the employee's permission. The right can be found in state statutes, codes, or by judicial case law. Also, employees in most states have the right to request access to their personnel files upon proper notice. Social Security Numbers: With the increase in identity theft, various statutory laws have been enacted to protect the privacy of social security numbers. For example, many states expressly limit and/or prohibit the use of all or part of social security numbers as computer password s or employee ID numbers. Some states also limit whether and to what extent social security numbers can be used on itemized wage statements. There also are many state laws that require extensive disclosures by employers in the event a company suspects that certain kinds of personal information about employees or belonging to them may have been compromised. Monitoring and Eavesdropping: There are extensive anti-eavesdropping laws that prohibit tapping into or listening to telephone conversations, voicemail systems, and electronic communications systems. For example, some states have civil and criminal statutes that require both parties to a telephone conversation to consent to being recorded or listened to, while other states require that only one party cons ent. Surveillance by camera is also subject to various legal requirements regarding notice and disclosure to employees.
There are several other federal and state laws that permit employers, in some circumstances, to monitor, save, record, access, or other wise conduct surveillance of employees' use of company electronic communication resources and systems. Usually, these laws require clear,
unequivocal notice by the employer or owner of the electronic communication system that such monitoring and/or access may occur, and advance notice of the lack of privacy in the use of the systems. In many cases, advance consent by the users is also required by law. Consistent with these laws, most employers have policies regarding electronic resources that inform employe es that access to and use of any data contained in any company -owned or -provided electronic resource system or tool, including but not limited to e -mail, use of the Internet, and voicemail, is not private to the employees, belongs to the company, and is subject to various types of monitoring, access, and disclosure by the company. Most employers also have Information Security Policies with detailed information that every manager, supervisor, and employee must comply with at all times. Usually, employees a re required to sign an acknowledgement that they have read and understood the policy and will comply with it.
What are employee privacy rights?
Employees have privacy rights in the workplace in most states. These privacy issues in the workplace pertain to the employee¶s« personal belongings, including briefcases or handbags.
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telephone conversations and voice mail. personally addressed e-mail. personal storage lockers. personally addressed mail.
Nevertheless, the employee right to privacy is extremely restricted regarding computer, internet, and e -mail use of employer owned systems. Telephone and voice mail are also subject to monitoring restrictions by employers. Employees should always be treated with respect, dignity, appreciation and not exploitation. Federally protected rights that employers should honor are«
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not to misuse employee health or medical information for insurance purposes. no privacy invasion because the employee works at home. always inform workers about surveillance.
appropriate drug testing that does states legitimate reason related to performance without prying into the employee¶s medical history or personal life. to keep the employee¶s information confidential. to get clearly informed consent from employees before gathering information.
Speaking notes for Malcolm Crompton, Federal Privacy Commissioner Current Workplace Privacy Issues Deacons Speech 23/10/03
1. ³Many organizations have failed to recognize [a] major privacy risk within their organization - the data they collect about their own employees«´ [Developments in both the domestic and international arenas are now pushing employee privacy issues to the forefront. The evolving legislative and judicial privacy landscape around the world is making successful management of global workforce data increasingly difficult. An inadequate employee privacy program that fails to consider these new rules and regulations can not only expose a company to potential privacy breaches, but can also affect the deployment of new systems designed to bring new efficiencies to human resources ("HR") fun ctions. Without a diligent review of employee privacy regulations, companies could experience financial loss on investments made on global HR systems and HR technology solutions. While substantial challenges are involved, employee privacy can be managed ef fectively and actually help to bring efficiencies to corporate HR initiatives. Moreover, effective privacy policies can also be used to improve the employer/employee relationship and combat perceived "secrecy" surrounding a company's HR practices and the information maintained about employees.
Employee rights to privacy in the workplace continue to feature regularly in the media, covering topics such as:
Email usage; Web surfing; Video surveillance; Drug testing; RFID; Psychological testing; Use of biometrics (to monitor attendance and give access/ security level); Future use of genetic testing.
Appropriate mix of trust and accountability y Striking a balanced mix of mutual trust and accountability is what is important when it comes to workplace privacy. There are three distinct types of interaction within organisations that influence this mix including:
Staff to organisation Organisation to staff Organisation + staff to customers
y Employers have legal responsibilities to staff and shareholders. In undertaking a privacy risk management approach, employers need to ensure that resources are being used properly by staff and that staff ar e not being harassed or abused through the improper use of IT systems . y Privacy invasive monitoring reflects an employer ±employee relationship which is not based on mutual trust. Invasive monitoring may contribute to low employee moral and work satisfaction ± potentially a major contributor to low productivity.
y Organisations need to advise employees about their policies ± outlining what is and is not acceptable behaviour; what the organisational values are; what the organisation¶s rules or code of conduc t are. y Employee attitudes to workplace monitoring are closely intertwined with our strong sense of Right to a Fair Go (absence of discrimination/ chance to right a wrong) and the rights of the Aussie Battler (first recorded in 1896 in a Henry Lawson story). Organisation¶s would be wise to consider the impact cultural attitudes to employee loyalty.
Yes, the technology has changed the face of the workplace ± the issues remain the same«Cast your mind back to the initial response to photocopiers (in particular colour photocopiers), faxes or the desk telephone. New technology has caused a lot of interest in this area but the issues have been around for a long time. For example, employee productivity levels, efficient use of equipment and resources, and, risk management of intellectual property.
Privacy Act 1988 ± Employee Exemptions Guidelines on Workplace E-mail, Web Browsing and Privacy (30/3/2000)
OFPC Statistics Total calls by financial year NPP Exemption - employee records
Total enquiries by financial year
Global attention to workplace monitoring is increasing
UK Information Commissioner, Employment Practices Data Protection Code: Part 3 Monitoring at Work.(11/06/2003) (http://www.dataprotection) Benefits of the Employment Practices Code:
increase trust in the workplace - there will be transparency about information held on individuals, thus helping to create an open atmosphere where workers have trust and confidence in employment practices. encourage good housekeeping - following the Code encourages organisations to dispose of out-of-date information, freeing up both physical and computerised filing systems and making valuable information easier to find. protect organisations from legal action ± adhering to the Code will help employers to protect themselves from challenges against their data protection practices. encourage workers to treat customers¶ personal data with respect - following the Code will create a general level of awareness of personal data issues, helping to ensure that information about customers is treated properly. help organisations to meet other legal requirements - the Code is intended to be consistent with other legislation such as the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). assist global businesses to adopt policies and practices which are consistent with similar legislation in other countries - the Code is produced in the light of EC Directive 95/46/EC and ought to be in line with data Code of Practice ± monitoring at work About the Code protection law in other European Union member states. help to prevent the illicit use of information by workers - informing them of the principles of data protection, and the consequences of not complying with the Act, should discourage them from misusing information held by the organisation. 13. Hong Kong, Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, A Draft Code of Practice on Monitoring and Personal Data, Privacy at Work, Consultation Document (Release 8/3/2002)
Principle of Proportionality Principle of Transparency Scope Monitoring of Telephone Calls Monitoring of E-mail Monitoring of Computer Usage e.g. Internet access Video Monitoring. Issues Blurring of home/work boundary¶s («as working from home becomes more common, and as employees may be expected to take calls and attend to E-Mail outside formal hours of work s 4.3) Domestic helpers or guest workers.
Balanced Risk Assessment
A balanced risk assessment needs to address the changes in technology and workplace context. For example, there are four key areas employers need to consider: BALANCE: The employer has a right to know what staff are doing during work hours; they also have a responsibility to ensure the workplace is free from harassment and hostility. Staff should be able to organise some of their personal lives free from the surveillance of their employer. PROPORTIONALITY: Data Collection limitations principles applies (1.1) Surveillance and testing must be in proportion to the risks. Drug testing operators of heavy machinery / would seem appropriate; Drug testing everyone in a company would not. TRANSPARENCY/OPENNESS: Be open and transparent about what the company is doing; tell employees what monitoring is taking place and why. Be open about the process; have a policy, negotiate it with staff and circulate it. PREVENTION: Prevent problems before they occur ± implement in software that automatically blocks access to unauthorised sites. Educate and train staff in organisational policies ± ensure the do and don¶ts are clear.
1. A recurring theme is that organisations are not being open and honest with their employees, engaging in covert surveillance of employees. 2. The key concerns include cost of non -productive use of resources or cost of lost productivity.
Cultural and Technical Issues
increased employee monitoring powers raise the risk that false inferences can be drawn about employee contact. For instance, an employee might accidentally visit whitehouse.com, a pornographic web site, while attempting to access whitehouse.gov. An employee network monitoring appliance can detect access to the inappropriate site, but not the intent of the employee. With these new monitoring tools and potential to draw false inferences, it is important now more than ever for employees to have basic due process protections --the right of notice of the violation and some "opportunity to be heard."
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