Mia A. Rapier
BUS 670: Legal Environment
Instructor Leah Westerman
December 22, 2014
Employee monitoring has developed as a requisite and yet as a very controversial issue due to the intricacy and widespread use of technology in today’s business world. “Employee monitoring is the act of watching and monitoring employees' actions during working hours using employer equipment/property” (Home, n.d.). Further, “employers are concerned with proper employee behavior and Code of Conduct compliance in relation to their industries and related organizations” (Home, n.d.). This paper will cover the different types of monitoring typically conducted by employers for their employees including searching their desk, office, or work area and occasionally their computer. Electronic communication is also an area on contention regarding this issue – can employers legally and ethically review employees’ electronic data available at the work site such as emails of phone calls and text messages on company telephones? This paper will examine several aspects of business law as it pertains to these issues as well as the subsequent ethical concerns that arise.
A theoretical scenario in which employee monitoring is exercised is employee productivity – is a paid employee utilizing their time at work constructively for the betterment of their employer, or are they utilizing their employer’s resources for their benefit? This development is atypical when broaching this subject; is an employee using employer time to surf the Internet, respond to personal emails, make long-distance personal calls on the employers dime, use the company credit card for personal charges, etc.
I can personally attest to the potential benefits of employee monitoring based on an experience with a former employer and colleague. This example happened right around 2000, 2001 when Internet usage was relatively high but firewalls and other site-blocking tools were rarely implemented. I worked the morning shift (7 am-3 pm) as a reservations agent for a popular boutique hotel, with three other agents working other shifts. The situation arose when I arrived at work one morning before my manager’s arrival, turned on my computer and found explicit pornographic material saved to the desktop. I understood that possession of this material on my work computer – though I had no knowledge of it – was grounds for immediate suspension or termination. After unsuccessfully attempting to remove the content my manager arrived and I explained the situation, as it turned out, my manager had been monitoring another reservations agent for this exact issue via computer tracing to determine which websites were viewed at certain times of the day, to narrow down whom had committed the breach. In the end, the agent in question was fired as a result of the monitoring and I was absolved of any wrongdoing.
The issue of employee monitoring is debated heavily by both advocates and opponents. Those in favor of monitoring employees’ computer, phone, and email usage believe that they are acting in good faith for the betterment of the organization for which they represent. In knowing that employees are utilizing company property and time to aid in their position is understandable, but for every employee that only makes work-related calls on the company cell phone or only conducts company business in their employer’s vehicle there are many more abusing such liberties and it is because of their actions that monitoring is often justified. Conversely, many challengers to employee monitoring liken it to privacy invasion and cynicism on the part of the employers. These individuals believe that their individual rights to discretion outweigh those of an intrusive employer, thus discord ensues.
So how exactly should employers monitor the work output, behavior and duties of their employees? With the various legal and ethical issues surrounding employee