The work world has seen a drastic change over the past couple of years. Including the use of electronic monitoring. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, people were forced to work from home. As time passed, lots of businesses realized that they could save lots of money, increase productivity, and keep their employees happy by moving to a remote work model.
However, as the number of remote workers increased, so did the numbers of businesses who began electronic monitoring of their employees. It’s easy to wonder if employers can track remote work and whether privacy laws apply.
What is Electronic Monitoring?
Electronic monitoring is the collection of information via telephone, computer, microphone, and webcam about employees’ communications and activities. It allows for workplace surveillance of activities that supervisors cannot see or hear.
How Does Electronic Monitoring Work?
Many ways can companies monitor their employees electronically. Your boss can view your keystroke data and information about how you spend your idle time, as well as your webcam data and microphone, if you have a computer at work.
Monitoring programs can even automatically take screenshots without you being aware. A corporate internet connection allows the company access to all of your email and sites visited. Your employer might be able view private emails, websites or social media accounts that you use through the same connection.
What about all the collaboration tools like Slack and Google Meet? Your employer also owns them, so they have access to the content. Your company might also be recording your Zoom or Microsoft Teams video conferences. Additionally, be on the lookout for company-issued phones. All of your GPS data can easily be tracked.
Why Do Companies Conduct Electronic Monitoring of Employees in the Workplace?
Employers use security and productivity as the main reasons for establishing a workplace monitoring policy. The automated employee monitoring program can detect cybersecurity mistakes and attempts to steal sensitive information by employees. They also pick up a lot of private data.
Keystroke tracking and secret screenshots can also be used to identify employees who are not performing well. The problem is that, while companies claim they use the information to motivate employees to increase productivity, they can also use it to discipline employees.
Are There Existing Laws that Protect Employee Privacy?
They provide privacy protection. Employers are prohibited from interfering with employees’ electronic, oral and wire communications under the Electronic Communications Privacy Law of 1986. The law allows exceptions if the employee consents to it or if the employer can demonstrate a legitimate business reason to monitor oral and electronic communications.
In general, workers should not expect much privacy when it comes to workplace communications–especially when using employer-issued computers, phones, and networks. Some states have taken electronic monitoring of the workplace to a higher level.
California, for example, already prohibits recording confidential audio communications without consent. The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), amending the California Consumer Privacy Act will take effect on January 1, 2023. Employers must inform employees about the types of sensitive personal information they will collect and the purpose of doing so under the workplace privacy law.
Are These Laws Applicable to Me if My Company is Located in Another State?
There are many factors that will affect whether electronic monitoring laws in your particular state can protect you if your employer is located in another state. Ask your employer about their policy if you have any questions.
Fraigun Law Can Help You Learn More About Your Privacy Rights Under California Law
The employment law attorneys at Fragun Law can help you understand your rights if you as a Californian. Our boutique practice focuses solely on employment law. Our team can help you with your concerns about electronic monitoring while working remotely. To schedule a consultation, call us at 818-981-1800 or fill out a contact form on our Contact page.