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What you need to know about privacy in the workplace

On Behalf of | Aug 5, 2021 | Employment Law |


Privacy in the workplace can be a sensitive topic for both employers and workers. This is because not everyone fully understands what privacy they have a right to when they clock in at work.

Unfortunately, this is something that some employers take advantage of. If workers do not know their rights, an employer could violate workplace privacy to exert greater control in the workplace. Here is what you need to know about what your boss can do at work.

Are security cameras allowed?

In general, your employer can use security cameras to monitor you and other employees throughout your shifts. This does not mean they have free reign to monitor you in every situation, though. Security cameras cannot be too invasive, so you should expect privacy in places like restrooms or locker rooms where you change clothes.

Security cameras are not the only method employers use to monitor workers. Depending on the workplace, employers might choose to search workers at the end of their shifts. This typically only applies to those working in high-risk security areas or if an employer has a reasonable suspicion of stolen items. Like with security cameras, these searches should not be overly invasive.

What about my work correspondence?

Depending on your job, you might spend a portion of your day replying to emails or answering phone calls. Unfortunately, you do not have a lot of privacy when it comes to emails at work. Since work email systems often belong to employers, they may monitor their workers’ usage. Employers might also monitor:

  • Phone calls
  • Text messages on company phones
  • Possible drug use via drug tests

The idea of an employer listening in on a phone call can be particularly troubling to some. In general, though, employers may not listen in on personal phone calls even if there is a policy against making personal calls. Instead, they may only listen just long enough to determine whether it is a personal or professional call.

Is my car considered private?

Whether your employer can search your vehicle comes down to an important distinction — is it yours? If you are driving a company car, you should not expect a significant level of privacy, and your employer can probably search your vehicle. If it is a personal vehicle, then chances are that your employer cannot search your vehicle. They may still call the police if there is a suspicion that you have illegal or dangerous substances stored in your car.

Your rights as a worker are important. This means that you need to understand the basics of privacy in the workplace and the potential consequences of what happens when your employer violates that privacy. Depending on the situation, your employer might even use information gained through privacy violations to discriminate against you.