Imagine being at work, typing an e-mail to your significant other apologizing for the fight you had last night and saying you’ll do whatever it takes to make it up to them.
Now imagine your boss calling you into his office for a “conference” about your inappropriate behavior because he is upset you used office time and supplies to perform non-business related actions.
Embarrassed? Sure. Outraged? Absolutely.
Employers have the right to monitor you while on the job. There are currently no laws prohibiting them from doing so.
However, there is hope. According to the Workplace Privacy Act, employers may only monitor you when on their premises and/or when it is in the normal course of employment.
Therefore, the employer cannot tape you in the dressing room or bathroom. But companies are doing exactly that.
Consolidated Freightways, a California-based company, was recently exposed for hiding cameras in restrooms. Some cameras pointed directly at the urinals.
Now, I find it hard to believe what I do on the potty is in any way related to my work. If I want to do a crossword puzzle, then let me do it in peace.
Many believe hiring personal investigators to follow employees, tapping phone calls and installing GPS systems into badges and cell phones is not an invasion of privacy.
In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Employees who smoke should not have to worry about their employer firing them because it could raise the company’s health insurance expenses. Employees with credit problems should not have to worry about their employer suspecting them of fraud. Employees who like to visit a strip club on their lunch break should not have to worry about their employer finding out.
As long as the worker reports on time and is ready to work, it should be of no concern what is done outside company doors.
The advances in technology over the past decade have been great. They have improved lines of contact between great cities such as Cleveland and Tallahassee.
Unfortunately, with any improvement comes a negative side. In 1999, 67 percent of employers admitted to monitoring employees. By 2003, that number had jumped to 92 percent. This explosion has stripped employees of any privacy. It goes well beyond reaching management and productivity goals. It is now downright degrading and a blatant disregard for human dignity.
A 2001 survey by the American Management Association showed that 75 percent of employers monitor without individualized cause. A 2003 study by the Center for Business Ethics at Bentley College reported that 25 percent of employers do not have in place procedures or safeguards to ensure the monitoring process is not abused.
These statistics are absurd. If an employer wants to monitor the employees, he should at least inform them and have just cause. Clearly, that is not asking too much.
There are plenty of means for employers to track progress without invading privacy. Instead of opening and tracing all emails, only open those of a business origin. For example, Pricewaterhouse Coopers should only open e-mails that come from a pwc.com or customer’s business address.
The government must intervene on this issue. In the past, it created laws to prevent discrimination against minorities, women and child labor abuse.
Now it is time for people to intervene on behalf of the workers’ privacy. People are not robots. They have lives other than the work they were hired to do and those lives must be preserved and protected from invasion.
Dominique Drake is a third year Professional MBA student from Cleveland. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org