Supervisors need to know how to stay on solid legal ground when dealing with private information on their employees. Privacy is an area that does not have one clear-cut set of standards from one major federal law, but various federal, state, and local laws do govern how employers treat employee information.
Why “Workplace Privacy—What Supervisors Need to Know” Matters:
An individual’s right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure is fundamental. It is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. According to the Supreme Court, the Constitution also provides for a right to privacy. And that right extends to employees in the workplace.
But both state and federal laws concerning privacy recognize that organizations have a legitimate right to control their workplace and that this can have an impact on employee privacy.
The laws and the courts protect employee privacy. For example, courts will generally find an invasion of privacy in situations where an employee has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Courts have found, for instance, that employees have a high expectation of privacy in bathrooms and locker rooms. Video surveillance in such areas would be considered an invasion of privacy.
Customers also have privacy rights. It is our duty to protect information about customers and make sure that it is not released to unauthorized people.
- Employers have the right to control and protect the workplace for legitimate business reasons, such as preventing theft, protecting employee safety, and ensuring that business resources are being used appropriately.
- To achieve these goals, we may need to do such things as monitor employee activities, conduct workplace searches, make background checks on employees, and require drug and alcohol testing.
- These actions must always be balanced with employees’ right to privacy.