Many things need to be considered when trying to balance employers’ rights with employee privacy.  The practical needs of the business are key, but there are also legal requirements and ethical standards that impact those interests. If you are a business owner who feels it necessary to monitor your employees to ensure they are complying with nondisclosure agreements, maintaining trade secrets, or even just ensuring productivity, it’s important to follow best practices for doing so while still respecting your workers’ right to privacy.

The first thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with the current laws.  Several states have put protections for employee privacy in place, and there are also federal laws that govern the compelled and voluntary disclosure of emails, texts, and other electronic communications, including those on employer-provided communication systems.

When moving forward with monitoring or data collection, you should always make sure that your actions are proportional to your needs, and have a business-related purpose. You need to make sure that your employees know what monitoring they are subject to, why it is being gathered, and how any data that is collected will be used, and you need to make sure that you’re only collecting information that you need for the stated purpose – and that whatever you collect is protected from unauthorized access. Some states require you to get voluntary informed consent from your employees for this type of monitoring.

The best way to go about this is to incorporate your monitoring policies within your employee handbook, making sure that it is communicated as part of your employee training. If you indicate that you are going to be conducting monitoring, you should also conduct audits of your process and assess how it is impacting employee privacy to make sure that you are staying within the framework of your own policies, and the law.

Some employees will be extremely uncomfortable in the face of their communications being monitored. Establish a mechanism through which their concerns can be expressed, as well as a mode of communication for them to anonymously express concerns about mismanagement of data collection or processes. Remember that open dialogue is always the best way to avoid conflict and dissatisfaction.

If you need assistance with implementing an employee monitoring process or ensuring that it complies with all local and federal laws, our experienced attorneys are here to help.