Snooping employers beware

Spying on your employees could land you in hot water

The U.S.' increasingly technology-savvy work force quickly is surpassing employers' ability to adapt to new, dynamic forms of communication; many private and public sector employers find themselves playing catch-up. With employees' increased access to technology in the workplace, many employers want to be sure such access is used reasonably. However, employees' privacy rights must be considered.

Federal and state laws regulating workplace privacy have clarified employees' right to privacy and employers' right to monitor. Nevertheless, there are innumerable gray areas that can cause trouble for even the most well-intentioned employers.

Existing privacy laws

Privacy concerns are deeply rooted in intrinsic constitutional values, specifically those enumerated by the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Indeed, the line between privacy concerns regarding public and government employers and privacy concerns regarding private sector employers is blurry. And the average employee has difficulty determining the parameters of his or her privacy interests and rights in the workplace. Various federal and state laws have been created specifically to demarcate privacy rights and obligations inside and outside the U.S. workplace.