Today, as technology is growing, an employee right of privacy in the workplace is becoming more of a contentious topic. Even there is a protection law; many employees are worried about their privacy at work. Then, it is a human resource management responsibility to make sure those employees are treated with confidentiality. Without the privacy, workers cannot concentrate on boosting organizational productivity.
What is right to privacy?
The rights of the employee privacy encompasses their workplace activities and personal information. Most of the companies in the private sector have a policy that dictates the privacy rights of their employees. The current law protects individual information contained in government agencies but not in private sector. Employers have the obligation to act in good faith with information pertaining their employees. The release of such information is only done under a court order (Privacy rights clearinghouse, 2014).
For the past years, one of the main methods of employee monitoring is electronic monitoring. It is an easy and a quick way of censoring employees’ private information. Through monitoring, employers can read worker’s media pages, email accounts and actually any information that is online or on the telephone. Monitoring can happen without one’s agreement to access their private materials. Employers can screen their employees at any time of the day (Privacy rights clearinghouse, 2014). That is why workers are very worried that their right of privacy can be violated. However, every employee signs in the contract that they can be monitored if it is related to the company. So, employers have legal rights to check and observe their workers.
The use of electronic monitoring technologies is increasing in use by employers. They use the method to observe and monitor electronic communications carried out by their employees. According to employee advocates, the use of electronic monitoring significantly erodes the privacy rights of employees. There are many reasons and facts to understand why monitoring is allowable. Monitoring is allowable at the organization and national level (Privacy rights clearinghouse, 2014). On the other hand, employers argue that they do it for the good reasons in the work place. The organization reasons include:
Monitoring the productivity of employees in the workplace
Monitoring the compliance of workplace policies among employees in relation to the use of the internet connection, email communication systems and use of computer systems.
A tool to investigate employee misconduct, workplace discrimination and harassment complaints. For example, if one reports about sexual harassment, HR manager can look at employee’s email account or listen to telephone conversation in order to find any evidences. It can make a big difference during investigation of any complaints within the organization.
To curb organization espionage such as disclosure of business secrets and other confidential information.
To prevent employees from gaining unauthorized access to sensitive computer systems that contain confidential business or organizational information.
Monitoring is also required to ensure national security. There are State laws regarding safety of the citizens and that require monitoring of several activities carried out by the citizens (Privacy rights clearinghouse, 2014). It can be very useful in some situations. Another reason to enter someone’s privacy is to ensure safety. The government can censor if one is suspicious to avoid terrorist acts. It is very important reason as keeping country safety must be at the first place. Although ethical issues have been raised concerning the activities of monitoring the activities and personal communication of citizens, the practice is still practiced by the State as a security measure to curb security breaches such as terrorism. However, one cannot be monitored depending on their age, religion, race, gender, and sexual orientation (Privacy rights clearinghouse, 2014). Therefore, there has to be evidence or an issue that is related to employee in order to be electronically monitored.
HR role in the workplace
It is HR manager’s job to ensure that both employer and employees know their rights in the workplace. The responsibilities of the HR differ from one organization to another. The success of the organization largely depends on the role of the HR. The written code must be provided and explained to each individual. Also, managers can use training classes to describe and clarify the policies and terms to the organization workers (Jackson, 2008).
HR are involved in carrying out rigorous staffing to ensure that qualified individuals are hired to fill organization vacancies. They carry out job design, job analysis and attend to employee needs to ensure that the foundation of the staff is well established and people are able to do what they like. They carry out employee planning such as employee retention programs (Jackson, 2008).
In a private company, a policy should be in place to guide in the process of searching employees’ workspace, or property. An employer can face legal actions for carrying out illegal personal searches on employees. Force should not be applied when carrying out bodily searches, otherwise, the search will be considered illegal (Haris, Niki 2011).
The HR can be involved carrying out alcohol and any other drug testing among its employees in a privately owned organization. According to legal terms, the testing results are not supposed to be released. However, the law does not enforce the policies that provide the reason for testing employees and when the activity should be carried out. To avoid legal action, a company or an organization formulate a known and clear drug testing policy (Haris, Niki 2011).
- Haris, Niki (2011). Employer vs. Employee. Workplace Privacy. Retrieved 30 April 2014 from www.law.utah.edu
- Jackson, Mathis. (2008) Human resource management. Essential perspectives.
- Privacy rights clearinghouse. (2014). Workplace privacy and employee monitoring. Retrieved 30 April 2014 from https://www.privacyrights.org/workplace-privacy-and-employee-monitoring