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Employee privacy: What are your rights as the employer?

by , 05 March 2013
Where do your employees' rights to privacy end and your right to protect your business begin? What if you need to protect your company from employee theft? Or have to protect it from slander through employee emails? These are just two of the circumstances that could force you to invade your employees' privacy. But before you do, make sure you know what your company's obligations are when it comes to employee privacy...

Ohio state senator, Charleta B. Tavares wants Ohio to be the next state to prohibit employers from asking for access to their employees social media profiles, reports wfjm.com. This comes as a result of the US's Social Media Privacy Protection Act, which will protect job seekers from being asked to supply passwords for their social media accounts before being hired.

Here in South Africa, the recent bout of court rulings for company slander by employees on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter could see a similar law come into force soon.

But that doesn't mean you have the right to invade your employees' privacy. Even if you suspect them of slandering your company or stealing from you.

Here's what you need to know about your company's obligations when it comes to protecting employee privacy

Is installing security cameras to watch your staff a breach of employee privacy?

The truth is, 'every employer is entitled to protect its property and can install security cameras in the workplace,' explains The Practical Guide to Human Resources Management.

'The question often asked is whether employees must be given notice of the security cameras or whether the security cameras can be installed without the employees' knowledge. The answer to this question generally depends on where the security cameras are installed,' the guide explains.

That means installing a security camera in a general office area is totally acceptable. Putting a camera in your company bathroom, on the other hand, will be seen as a breach in employee privacy.

Is monitoring employee emails a breach of employee privacy?

The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act of 2002 states that an employer may intercept the communications of its employees:

  • Where it is a party to such communications
  • Where the employees have given their prior written consent to interception; or
  • If the communication happens in the course of carrying on the business of the employer.

That's why the Practical Guide to Human Resources Management suggests you insert a communication clause into your employment contract to protect your rights and your employee's rights to privacy. This will protect both of you in the event of a communication breach.

So there you have it, by understanding your company's obligations when it comes to employee privacy, you'll be able to monitor your employees without getting on the wrong side of the law.



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