The modern workplace has become a hub for various technological advancements across many different industries. Companies have adapted to having better computer systems, as well as more advanced cybersecurity measures than ever before. Despite the advantages afforded by these changes, some businesses have used technology in employee termination to illegally monitor employee activity. Such is the case for tech giant Google, which is in hot water with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for illegally spying on its employees before terminating them.
NLRB Alleges Google Spied on Employees Before Termination
According to a recent complaint filed by the NLRB, Google violated U.S. labor laws by spying on its workers before terminating several of them. Two of the employees involved were in the process of organizing protests against the company. The NLRB complaint names the two terminated employees, citing that their firings were in connection with employee activism. In addition, the NLRB found Google’s policy on viewing other workers’ calendars is, in fact, unlawful. Google spokespersons have maintained the company’s stance that the firings were legitimate and lawfully accomplished.
Employer Monitoring in the Workplace
Employers monitoring employees in the workplace is nothing new. While in the past monitoring employees may have involved surveillance cameras, modern technology allows employers to keep track of a much wider variety of employee activities through various means. With this in mind, however, it’s important for both employers and employees to be aware of what can and cannot be monitored during work hours. Some of the items employers can survey include:
Employers have the legal right to monitor their own business property, including work computers. This includes everything from how often employees use the internet, any downloaded software, any files or documents stored on the computer, if the device is left idle, and the number of keystrokes or words typed every hour. While acceptable monitoring options can vary by industry, it’s important employees are aware of the ways their workplace computer activity can legally be reviewed.
Despite what one may think, emails sent from your business email account are not private. Employers can legally monitor any email sent or received through a work email account. Most businesses will provide employees with written notice of this fact in an employee handbook, employment agreement, or via notices posted in the workplace.
Employers often monitor employee phone calls made using work or in-office phones for quality control reasons; however, if a call made on a work phone is personal, employers must stop listening once aware. If a company has a policy is in place that disallows personal calls during work hours, the employer can listen long enough to determine the purpose of each call.
What Employers Cannot Monitor
Despite the ability to monitor work-related activities, employers are not allowed to monitor:
- Personal emails
- Personal texts
- Blogging and social media
- GPS tracking
Houston Employment Law Attorneys
Employees are bound by the terms and conditions of their hiring as well as by state and federal law. Employers are also obligated to follow certain regulations and must afford their employees the legal protections to which they are entitled. Should an employee believe their rights are being violated in the workplace, it’s important to consult with an experienced Houston employment attorney. Likewise, if an employer is accused of violating an employee’s rights, the business also needs to seek the advice of experienced business counsel. At Feldman & Feldman, our attorneys advocate for both employers and employees facing difficult issues in the workplace. Contact our office today for more information on how we can help.