In a time where flexible work schedules and remote work are far more popular, the traditional ways of monitoring employees may no longer be effective. Instead, you may be considering using alternative methods, such as technology tracking systems. Though tracking employee productivity may be necessary for your industry, there are several laws that make employee monitoring tricky. Here’s what you need to know about the laws and best practices surrounding employee monitoring:
Federal Monitoring Laws
For the most part, employee monitoring is allowed within reason. Some forms of monitoring come with restriction, like video surveillance. You can use surveillance cameras on your worksite to prevent theft, but video surveillance is not allowed in restrooms or locker rooms. On the other hand, there is little to no restriction on monitoring employee computer activity if they are using company equipment. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy in this case, so employers can generally monitor company-owned computers without concern.
However, it’s possible in computer monitoring to accidentally gain access to employee information that breaks another privacy law. For example, if an employee was to sign-in to a medical health portal, your company may gain access to sensitive medical information that violates HIPAA guidelines. Be cautious of how you monitor and store monitoring data to avoid violating other privacy laws.
Some federal monitoring laws are determined by the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA). The ECPA primarily restricts monitoring of business communications stating that businesses are only able to monitor employee communications if they have a legitimate business reason.
State Monitoring Laws
Some states require employers to inform employees of the types of monitoring or get written consent from employees to be monitored. This requirement varies from state to state and may vary between forms of monitoring. Because of this, it’s important to understand the monitoring laws in every state where you have employees working. Consult with state departments of labor to stay in compliance with state monitoring laws.
Though you may not be required to inform employees of monitoring, it may be in your best interest to do so. Employees are more likely to trust their employer if they understand how they’re being monitored and why. For example, if you choose to use video surveillance in your workplace, you can explain to your employees that it is used as a deterrent from theft and as a protection for employees if something negative were to happen. If you are open about monitoring from the beginning, you will build a sense of trust and transparency in your company that will make the monitoring more effective.
Employee monitoring comes with risk and regulations that employers must understand. Make sure to follow this guidance when implementing a monitoring system into your company.