Workplace Investigations and Employee Privacy
How Far Can An Employer Go in Invading an Employee's Privacy When Conducting a Workplace Investigation?
When something like a theft or threat occurs in the workplace, the employer will do an investigation to try to figure and resolve the situation. However, in so doing, the employer must also keep in mind that employees have a right to privacy. Generally, how far an employer can in searching through the workplace for evidence pertaining to an investigation depends on the seriousness of the problem being investigated as well as how much of an invasion of privacy to the employee the employer wants to commit. Now obviously, if it is reported an employee is storing a weapon in his desk, the employer has the right to search the desk of that employee to verify if there is a weapon. However, not every problem will be as clear-cut in determining how far the employer can go in an investigation that involves interfering with employees? privacy.
What Are Some General Guidelines for Acceptable Conduct in an Investigation that Involves a Search through the Workplace?
There are some factors that should be kept in mind to keep a workplace search by an employer legitimate:
- Only do a search for a work-related problem, and only do the search in an area where it is completely necessary. This means that when a business computer has gone missing, the employer cannot take the opportunity to go looking through employees? desks since the missing equipment will obviously not be found there.
- Generally an employer will want to have a search policy before they ever have a search. Therefore, employees will know what parts of the workplace may not be subject to very much privacy.
- There are general a few private places that will always be off limits to a search. For one thing, bodily searches should never be done by the employer. Also, be careful about what kinds of search tactics you use for areas like bathrooms and changing rooms. Something like setting up surveillance cameras in this area can be a bad idea for the employer since these are very sensitive, private areas of the workplace.
- Also, an employer should never try to hold an employee against his will. This can be considered false imprisonment which is an illegal act.
What Should I Do if I Feel My Employer Has Violated My Privacy Rights?
You will probably want to consult an attorney specializing in employment law. Your attorney will be able to advise you of your rights and let you know if you are entitled to any money damages in a lawsuit against your employer.
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Last Modified: 01-02-2013 02:38 PM PST