Why Is Workplace Monitoring Necessary?

Question: 

I just noticed that there are a number of cameras monitoring me in my workplace.  I’m not sure why I never noticed it before but as I look around, there appears to be a number of “eyes in the sky”.  Is this legal?  It really makes me feel uncomfortable and I can’t believe they stoop so low to make sure I am working.

Answer: 

The types of monitoring that employers are doing these days are numerous.  Video cameras, GPS in cars, worksite/computer monitoring, telephone monitoring, video and audio recording, and wireless communications are just a few of the types of monitoring conducted in the workplace today. As technology expands, monitoring also expands well beyond what we traditionally think of regarding surveillance.  You mention the “eyes in the sky” but have you ever considered that many employers are also reviewing social media accounts, medical / health insurance usage, and biometric screening – just to name a few.  Although the types of monitoring employers do continue to expand, it is definitely not something new.  ABC news estimates that 78% of employers do some type of monitoring in the workplace.

Regardless of the type of monitoring being done, it is important to note that most monitoring is not being done to “watch you” but rather to keep you (and their equipment, their reputation, their company) safe.  There are laws in place both on the federal and state level that limit what types of monitoring can be done.  Society for Human Resources Management provides an informational link to state laws regarding workplace (traditional surveillance) monitoring. Laws surrounding the other types of data monitoring continue to evolve.

Finally, it is important to note that most employers are very clear about monitoring in the workplace.  Review your employee handbook, union contract, staff meeting discussions/memos, or even equipment stickers (computers) for notification that monitoring is being conducted.  If the monitoring is making you feel uncomfortable, speak with your employer.  There is most likely a legitimate reason as to why the monitoring is being conducted, so just ask.  You may just learn that those devices are there to keep you safe and protect you, not for babysitting.

Having easy to read and understand policies and procedures can help alleviate a lot of problems in the workplace. Not only do they set the stage for what is deemed inappropriate, they can also provide guidelines for what is considered acceptable, and even expected, behavior. strategic HR inc. receives numerous requests to review and rewrite employee handbooks on a regular basis, especially with the number of recent federal guideline changes. If you haven’t updated your handbook in the last few years, now may be a good time. For more information on how we can help you with Employee Relations and employee handbooks, please visit our Employee Relations page.