Employee Privacy Rights at Work
897). The rights of the company have been upheld time and again.
However, the real issue the company must address is finding the proper balance between the two. As Bupp (2001) pointed out, although the company has a wide range of monitoring open to it, studies have found that too much monitoring can also cause undo stress and be demoralizing for employees. Finding the balance that protects the company’s interests while ensuring employees are afforded an adequate measure of perceived respect and privacy becomes the aim of modern business in today’s technologically advanced work environment. How that balance may be achieved is the focus of this research.
As upheld in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 USCA 2510 of 1986 (ECPA), employers, as owners of the premises and communications equipment, have many rights of which employees may be unaware. According to Volkert (2005) employers may "search company-owned computers, monitor Internet use, use video surveillance and listen to voice mail" (p. 1). As early as 2001 Bupp found when reviewing an American Management Association survey report that as of 2001 73.5% of all major companies in the U.S. "record and review employee communications and activities on the job, including their phone calls, e-mail, Internet connections, and computer files" (p. 74). An additional 5% monitor phone logs and/or use video surveillance cameras. In 88% of the cases where the company electronically monitors employees’ working habits, the employee is informed of the methodology the company uses to monitor their behavior.
The need for monitoring of employees has stemmed from documented cases of employee theft of proprietary information from their employer as well as theft of company time by employees who instead of working at the job for which they were hired to be perform, spend an inordinate amount of company time on personal business thereby reducing the productivity of the company. Lichtash (2004) points out that use or misuse of company time by employees in surfing the internet or sending and receiving inappropriate email can lead to serious consequences to the employer including lost productivity and in some instances may lead to a perceived hostile work environment or charges of sexual harassment when email is used to circulate offensive contents. For those reasons alone "employers have a clear interest in
restricting the use of their e-mail and Internet systems" (p. 27).
Lichtash (2004) has also noted that there are varying degrees of use or misuse of company email. Firstly, many employers recognize that time restraints sometimes require employees to occasionally use company time to conduct some degree of personal business which the company generally allows or overlooks. The second type of misuse is more serious abuse of company systems that would warrant disciplinary action was the company to detect it. The last type of abuse is flagrant misuse resulting in a direct or potential substantial loss to the company which would result in immediate termination if the company was aware of the