Surveillance at Work: Is It Legal?

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Is your boss watching you? The rise of technologies has paved the way for employers to keep an eye on their employees. But surveillance doesn’t just involve your workload; sometimes, your boss keeps tabs on your restroom breaks and even your emotions. Is employee monitoring as intrusive as it sounds?

You can ask some of Denver’s employment attorneys about the legality of such technologies and policies. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know:

Companies are Now Rolling Out Employee Monitoring

The heat of employee monitoring began when Three Square Market started microchipping its employees who wanted to give it a try. The company started implanting a chip the size of a grain of rice under the skin between their thumb and forefinger.

The microchip enabled these employees to open security doors, make payments at the vending machines, and log on to computers within the company. Now, Three Square Market plans to develop the chip and give it GPS-tracking capabilities and voice recognition.

About 92 of 196 employees in the company got “chipped.” But what was the purpose?

Three Square Market CEO Todd Westby shared that the microchip assists employees with their daily tasks. He tells CNBC that the vast majority of their employees love the conveniences brought by the microchip.

Meanwhile, in China, they are monitoring the brain waves of their employees to identify their mood shifts. The so-called “emotional surveillance technology” reportedly increases productivity and profitability.

But to what extent are these companies invading the privacy of their employees?

Understanding the Reasons Behind Workplace Surveillance

Imagine your boss monitoring your online activity. That’s how it is in the UK; employers can monitor which websites you look at while at work. But how much of this is actually legal?

Employee monitoring is a good thing, as long as employees are well aware of the fact that they’re under surveillance. Employers ought to warn their staff when they plan on watching their every move online. And they also have to inform you of the relevant social media policy.

Take GPS tracking, for instance. Your employer legally has the right to track any vehicle they let you use. But they can only collect data relative to the company’s management purposes. In short, you can turn off any GPS device when using the vehicle for personal reasons outside of work.

The purpose of workplace surveillance may be good, but employers may want to take a look at the effects on employee productivity and efficiency. Otherwise, the technology may be inefficient and disruptive.

Keeping Surveillance Ethical

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The Guardian reports that there are two sides to the story. In an interview, Oxford Internet Institute sociologist Jamie Woodcock mentions that a sense of monitoring already exists the moment an employee walks in. But he pointed out that keeping tabs on a person can give them a sense that they could lose their jobs at any moment.

On another note, the technology can help a person improve what they’re doing. The surveillance not only reports the feedback to your boss; you’re also a recipient of the results.

Collecting data is fine, as long as the employees are aware of what they are getting into in the long term. As for employers, employee monitoring can work, what with access to vast data. But data can be useless when misused.

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