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When is employee monitoring too much?

On Behalf of | Sep 18, 2023 | Business Law |

Businesses use monitoring tools to analyze employee productivity, fine-tune operations and curb internal theft. This can involve tracking activities on company-issued devices, recording audio and perusing employee emails, among other things. While these practices could make employees feel they are under constant observation, they are generally legal.

However, there are still certain areas where employers must protect employee privacy. Employers can turn to federal statutes for guidance when there are no specific state rules regarding monitoring and wiretapping.

Surveillance laws are fairly loose

Many public spaces, including shopping malls, parks and workplaces, use cameras to deter and capture illegal activities. According to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, using video surveillance cameras to monitor and record citizens without their consent is permissible, provided that it does not record audio. Generally, anyone walking along Ohio sidewalks or cruising down the highway is under some surveillance.

Consequently, employers do not need to disclose that they are watching employees, nor are they required to obtain consent. As long as the video monitoring is for a legitimate business reason, employers can install certain surveillance tools as needed.

Not everything should be recorded

While laws on employee surveillance are lax, there are still boundaries. Implementing monitoring in certain areas where workers have a reasonable expectation of privacy is illegal. Employers who install cameras in restrooms, dressing rooms and locker rooms infringe on their employees’ privacy.

Employers in Ohio can listen in on employee business conversations as long as one of the participants consents. However, intercepting employees’ private conversations might lead to legal issues. Since employees often vent or discuss personal concerns in break rooms, monitoring these areas could be an issue.

Employees can expect to have limited privacy when they’re at work. However, this does not give employers leeway to record and capture everything they choose. Furthermore, even if using surveillance technologies is legal, overusing them could be detrimental to productivity and morale in the workplace.


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