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When can employers monitor their workers’ communications?

On Behalf of | Mar 31, 2022 | Employment Issues

Employers typically have the legal right to monitor their employees’ work in whatever way they choose. People who work in telephone customer service jobs know that their conversations can be monitored. Customers hear a message to this effect when they call. Employers can also access employees’ communications on their work email accounts since those accounts belong to the employer.

Businesses and other organizations have the right to ensure that their employees are representing them well and not doing anything that could harm them or their reputation. If a customer reports a problem or if some type of legal action is taken against an employer, they may need to access a phone recording, electronic communication or video.

State and federal law

The California attorney general’s website states, “Your employer is generally allowed to monitor your workplace communications, such as business phone calls and computer usage, and to access to your voicemail and e-mail.”

However, it is illegal to monitor an employee’s personal email account even if they access it on a company-owned device, like a personal computer or laptop. This is prohibited under the federal Stored Communications Act. An employee can give their consent to an employer to have such access. However, simply stating in an employee handbook that the company may access personal email accounts probably wouldn’t hold up in court if challenged.

It’s crucial for businesses to know what kind of employee monitoring and surveillance is allowed as well as whether and how it has to be disclosed to employees. This can be even more complicated when employees have employer-issued phones and electronic tablets. However, it’s also important to consider employee morale.

Why lack of transparency and over-monitoring can be bad for morale

If monitoring is necessary, be transparent about how it’s done and why – even if you don’t have to be. This can help prevent distrust among your team. No one likes to think they’re being spied on, but most people understand that some monitoring may be necessary. It can actually protect employees from unfounded accusations.

If you have any questions about employee monitoring and other types of surveillance, it’s wise to seek legal guidance. This can help you protect your rights as an employer and avoid unnecessary legal issues.