Employee Privacy During Off-Work Hours
Can My Employer Monitor and Discipline Me for My Conduct Outside of Work?
Generally, the answer to this is no. Outside the workplace right to privacy laws tend to be very solid and an employer generally has to have a very good reason for even asking about any information about your personal life, much less disciplining you for it. All states have laws that protect the privacy of individuals, and some states have laws that specifically say that an employer cannot look into the lawful private conduct of employees during off-work hours. This means that not only does state laws forbid an employer from entering an employee's house without the employee's permission, but that an employer cannot even ask an employee about his personal life unless the employee brought it up first.
Are There Certain Aspects of My Privacy That Are Specifically Protected Against Action By My Employer?
There are state and federal laws that protect certain non-work related activities, as well as certain beliefs and other aspects of your personal life:
- Religious/political activities -an employer cannot inquire about an employee's religious or political beliefs or activities. However, an employee cannot just come into work preaching his beliefs and harassing his fellow employees; in that case the employer can take disciplinary action
- Unions - an employer cannot spy on employees who are trying to form a union or who are in a union. Employers cannot send other employees to spy on union meetings. Employees in unions are protected under the National Labor Relations Act
- Marital Status - this can be a tricky area. Generally an employer cannot inquire about your marital status, and especially cannot inquire about anything really personal such as your sex life. However, when it comes to distributing benefits, you may be required to inform your employer as to your marital status. In addition, your employer may legally decide to terminate you or not hire you if your spouse is working for the competition.
- Moonlighting - for the most part there is nothing wrong with an employee working two jobs. However, if you are working for the competition, your employer has the right to terminate your employment.
- Illegal conduct - generally an employer cannot terminate an employee based on illegal conduct outside of work. The exception to this is if the employee's illegal conduct interferes with his work.
I Feel that My Employer Has Violated My Privacy, What Can I Do?
First, you will probably want to try to resolve the conflict within the workplace by means of whatever procedure is set out in your employee handbook for filing a complaint. If that does not work, you may want to consult an attorney who specializes in employment law. Your attorney can advise you of your rights and let you know if you would be entitled to any damages in a lawsuit against your employer.
Consult a Lawyer - Present Your Case Now!
Last Modified: 03-22-2011 02:21 PM PDT