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Are You Being Monitored at Work?

Have you ever considered, or do you feel that perhaps your actions on your computer system are being tracked after you leave the office? Are you fearful of checking out a social networking site like Twitter or Facebook on ‘your lunch hour’ since what you say can easily be tracked?

The idea of employers monitoring their employees has been a heated debate over the past seven years or so, and remains a hot button today, given Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Perfect Networker, and the hundreds of other ‘social’ networking sites now available to us.

New ‘tracking’ gadgets, such as GPS and PND (personal navigation) devices, are being manufactured all over the world that can assist employers in this monitoring process, in concert with the cooperation of their IT departments.

We are all aware that IT support staff can easily track file access and locate web addresses we have visited in minutes, just as we can do on our co-worker’s system if asked to do so.

The idea that a firm would request to see a laptop for inspection would be insulting and demoralizing, and absolutely an infringement on the employee’s right to privacy. Whether this was requested publicly, privately, or simply quietly handled in the employee’s absence, the end result is the same; it is an ‘invasion.’

I am certainly not suggesting that employees should be spending time on social networks when they are getting paid to perform the duties of their roles. As a matter of fact, I am adamantly opposed to it, as it is not fair to their team members or the firm. It is not professional conduct, and can create negative feelings amongst team members when they may be in need of assistance.

However, the ‘invasion of privacy’ issue is a hot one, and it is this aspect of employer tools utilized for monitoring an employee’s work that I do not agree with.

Recently in the United States, an ex-employee of North American Corporation has been awarded $1.8 million in damages, in addition to punitive damages on the grounds of ‘invasion of privacy.’

This case was not just a matter of an employer obtaining information from computer monitoring, however. In this situation, a private investigation was carried out, and her personal employee information was ‘released.’

This case was made public on Mondaq to encourage firms to be very careful in their handling of any kind of investigative work in relation to an employee’s behavior, and/or the disclosure of personal information.

………highlights the need for employers to proceed cautiously in this area and to develop clear guidelines and policies that take into account the current state of technology. As technology evolves, there will certainly be room for more errors. Indeed, the contours of the law regarding employee use and employer monitoring of social media are evolving day-to-day. Keeping abreast of these changes will help your organization avoid these kinds of lurking landmines.

The Mondaq article I have referenced is available at http://www.mondaq.com/

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Jenni Proctor

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