Say Cheese: Cameras In The Workplace, On-line Communication, and the Internet Test Bounds of Privacy

This episode of The Workplace explores new areas of concern and issues generated for employers by the prevalence of technology on the job site or in the office.  Erika Frank, CalChamber executive vice president, legal affairs and general counsel, and Ellen Savage, HR adviser with CalChamber’s Labor Law Helpline, talk about what is private – and what is not – at work.  The conversation provides both entertaining and helpful insight into the issue, particularly given the multitude of federal and state constitutional guarantees, limitations imposed by federal and state statutes, and case law.

“There are a lot of privacy issues that happen in the workplace,” says Frank. “There are laws that employers need to be aware of, or parameters that employers need to be aware of when we start dealing with the privacy of employees.”

“California employers have to pay attention to privacy in the workplace,” Savage says. “Everything from drug testing privacy to electronic privacy impacts them. There are certain labor codes that apply and there’s also a common law right that we always want to be aware of as well.”

Given the timespan between tape recorders and social media, issues around privacy in the workplace have evolved significantly.  In the podcast, Frank and Savage warn employers to be aware of how social media can intersect with day-to-day management and discipline of employees.

“Employers probably shouldn’t even be looking at these [social medial] accounts because they may learn things that could lead to claims of discrimination,” Savage points out.

Frank reminds employers that there is a right to privacy that employees have in the workplace and it is critical to get consent to do certain searches like taking employee photos or conducting certain types of monitoring.  As such, employers need to be mindful about what the reasonable expectation of privacy means and know there are laws that are very specific about when employers can and can’t monitor.

“Employees don’t give up their right to privacy when they walk into the workplace,” says Savage.

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