Employee Monitoring in the Workplace - DOC

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					                         I.


WORKPLACE MONITORING and CORPORATE SURVEILLANCE

             Case Written by MBA Student

                  November 8, 2006
               II. Workplace Monitoring and Corporate Surveillance

       In today’s global business environment, corporations are seeking novel

alternatives in their pursuit to remain competitive, thus new and innovative monitoring

tactics, that may be viewed as flying in the face of ethics, are being employed.

Employers are forced to ensure employee productivity, which may be compromised if an

employee is distracted by other influences. To that end, employers are watching their

employees at work. “When the stakes are high enough and tools are accessible, people

are going to use them,” says Peter Earnest, executive director of the International Spy

Museum in Washington, D.C. who spent 36 years working for the Central Intelligence

Agency. He adds, “75% of employers monitor their workers.” (Clark, 2006). Of interest

is that banks, brokerages, insurance, and real estate firms lead the pack when it comes to

monitoring their employees’ at work activity (American Companies Increase use of

Electronic Monitoring, 2006).

       Observations can occur in a variety of forms ranging from performing

surveillance; monitoring e-mail, voice-mail, instant messaging, and Internet usage; and

criminal background checks to name a few of the conventional forms of corporate

snooping.   “Employers want to be sure their employees are doing a good job, but

employees don’t want their every sneeze or trip to the water cooler logged. That is the

essential conflict of workplace monitoring.” (Employee Monitoring: Is There Privacy in

the Workplace? 2006).

       Employers concerned with protection of trade secrets and proprietary information

are not only watching employees they are also watching moves of competitors (Peticolas

and Heslin, 2006). A recent article in Business Week, entitled Corporate Snoops, points

out what a challenging issue this has become as illustrated when a pharmaceutical analyst

                                            1
for Bank of America Corporation hired a private investigator who uncovered the

Canadian drug maker, Biovail Corporation had removed office garbage in an attempt to

determine if evidence had been destroyed relevant to pending litigation (Orey, 2006).

       Watching the behaviors of employees and investigating potential snooping into

the business of competitors brings up several privacy issues where existing case law is

being challenged and looked upon differently in light of today’s high-tech business

society. This paper will discuss the current state and address the prominent aspects

relating to ethics and privacy, legal considerations, public relations, and actionable

solutions to this ever-increasing global issue of workplace monitoring and corporate

surveillance.

Current State of Affairs

Workplace Monitoring

       Most companies employ methods of pre-employment background checks but

what about other approaches to investigations after an employee is hired? Employees are

not hired to tend to personal Internet and e-mail matters – they are hired to perform

certain tasks in exchange for compensation (Beaver, 2002). E-mail or Internet usage that

may be offensive, sexually explicit, derogatory to a protected class, or in opposition to

the business mission, are being watched closely and on a frequent basis. Furthermore,

studies show that companies are losing major bucks, time, and resources on non-business

based computer usage (Beaver, 2002). Companies are very nervous as pointed out by

Louis Obdyke of SHRM, “Computers and electronic business methods have resulted in a

drastic increase in work related privacy litigation.” (Obdyke, 2002).

       Organizations vary and union affiliation is just one of the aspects that must be

considered when implementing a monitoring system. Under a collective bargaining

                                             2
agreement, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) mandates that searches be

collectively bargained for (Thelen, 2005). Thus, an employer at a unionized shop cannot

implement surveillance or searches without union notification and an agreement by the

parties to proceed has been reached.

       An example of this occurred in 1998 when an administrative law judge ruled

Anheuser-Busch, Inc. unlawfully failed to bargain with the union over the installation and

use of cameras and unlawfully denied the union access to information about the cameras

use and installation. The NLRB upheld this decision. Subsequently, Anheuser-Busch,

Inc. appealed claiming the use of cameras did not impinge on employee privacy rights.

The company also argued that bargaining for camera use would undercut its legitimate

need for prompt surveillance. The court disagreed and the original decision was upheld

(Thelen, 2005).    This case has been, and continues to be, quoted in unionized

organizations as companies attempt to continue furthering their use of employee

monitoring systems. This decision added to the difficulty collective bargaining efforts

have already encountered.

        On the contrary, non-union, private sector employers have the ability to conduct

searches as long as there is a legitimate business reason to do so. However, in both cases

it is an excellent idea to have a well-communicated policy in place that explicitly defines

what the employee can expect regarding work place investigations and monitoring

procedures.

       To complicate matters, monitoring could become mandatory.            According to

Douglas Towns, an employment attorney in the Atlanta Office of Jones Day states, “I

envision a claim against an employer charging that had they monitored, they would have

foreseen that an event would have happened.” (Verespej, 2006).

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Corporate Surveillance

       Corporations are desperate to get the facts. They want to know, who is leaking

my company’s secrets? Why is this person attacking my reputation? When is my

competitor releasing its new product?        Where are my goods being counterfeited?

Corporations are unable to get the answers to these questions through ordinary means

(Orey, 2006). Thus, private investigators fulfill this need and are not afraid to employ

unconventional methods such as dumpster diving, fictitious interviews, and infiltration or

shadowing to get the information they are hired to obtain. To amplify the situation,

globalization has increased the demand for investigation services due to a heightened

need for proprietary information in far-flung locations (Orey, 2006).

       Going to such lengths to obtain surreptitious information, is clearly a problem

difficult to defend. Even though it seems this practice is becoming the norm, any firm,

big or little, is taking a chance when a corporate detective is hired (Orley, 2006).

Contrary to what most would believe, as stated by Alex Kline, a solo investigator in San

Francisco, who has worked for a number of larger agencies, “Many private investigators

are not aware of the many legal, ethical, and public relations traps that surround big

companies and that detectives frequently come from law enforcement where it is alright

to lie in trickery to obtain wanted information.” (Orley, 2006).

       In point, everyone is aware of the Hewlett-Packard Corporation controversial

investigation to find press leaks where “pretexting,” or posing as a customer to obtain

directors’ home phone records, occurred (Burrows, 2006). This form of spying created

much strife at Hewlett-Packard during a time when profits were dramatically decreased

under the reign of CEO, Carly Fiorina who was later ousted in February of 2005. As a

result of the investigation, several members of the board of directors were driven out and

                                             4
the non-executive Chairman, Patricia Dunn and the newly appointed CEO, Mark Hurd

were ordered to testify before a congressional subcommittee; however, Ms. Dunn left the

board in the interim period (Burrows, 2006). Contrary to what you would expect, Mr.

Hurd remained the CEO in the midst of these investigations leaving many questions

unanswered as to why he did not assume more responsibility in his capacity (Tchen,

2006).

         Another example of corporate investigations involves William McGuire, CEO of

UnitedHealth Group, who will step down in December of this year as a result of a recent

inspection by a law firm of stock options that were backdated to maximize his personal

gain (Maurer, 2006). Even though Mr. McGuire’s holdings will be re-priced, this form of

activity has brought confidence levels to a low (Baxter, 2006). This is just another

example of what lengths corporations will succumb to ensuring shareholder interest is

protected.    These issues stir many questions regarding ethics and privacy, legal

considerations, and public relations of the firm.

Ethics and Privacy

         Unnecessary investigations create poor employee morale and employers that

target certain employees or groups of employees may expose themselves to

discrimination claims. In addition, if an employer targets a camera on one workstation, a

court may find the use of such selective surveillance to be overly intrusive (Can We Use

Video Surveillance to Monitor Our Employees? 2006).

         So how does ethics and privacy play into the complicated issue of workplace

monitoring and corporate surveillance? This topic has been debated and many employees

surprising have a heightened expectation of privacy than an organization is legally

obligated to afford. On the contrary, most companies agree that it is not appropriate to

                                             5
install cameras in areas such as bathrooms, dressing rooms, and locker rooms (Can We

Use Video Surveillance to Monitor Our Employees? 2006). Is this where the line should

be drawn, or is this an extreme example?

       Many ethical issues are being compared to those of the European Union where

monitoring is only legitimate in exceptional circumstances, such as when an employee is

suspected of criminal behavior (Computer Monitoring often Not Acceptable Outside U.S.

2006). Thus, monitoring employee computer activity in regard to privacy is an issue

being compared globally and hotly debated by the American Civil Liberties Union and

the National Work Rights Institute (Employee Monitoring: Is There privacy in the

Workplace? 2006). This contradiction proves opinions are split on this issue globally.

       Since September 11, 2001, companies are focused on security of their working

environments, which in turn has affected laws that govern employee privacy. As a result,

Congress passed legislation significantly broadening the scope of federal electronic

surveillance laws by adding terrorism offenses, computer fraud, and abuse offenses (USA

Patriot Act, H.R. 3162).

       Other than this most recent legislation, the two main restrictions on workplace

monitoring are the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) (18 U.S.C. § 2511

et. seq.) and common law protections against invasion of privacy. The ECPA is the only

federal law that directly governs the monitoring of electronic communication in the

workplace. It was passed in 1986 as an amendment to the federal Wiretap Act. Whereas

the Wiretap Act restricted only the interception and monitoring of oral and wire

communications, the ECPA extended those restrictions to electronic communications

such as e-mail (Leonard and France, 2003). In simplest terms, the ECPA prohibits

intentional monitoring unless the employer can show a business purpose exception,

                                           6
which permits monitoring oral and electronic communications as long as the company

can show a legitimate business purpose for doing so.         The second is the consent

exception, which allows employers to monitor employee communications provided they

have employee consent (Leonard and France, 2003).

       Privacy of corporate surveillance is more complex. There are no specific laws

against pretexting, for example, but that does not mean it’s not illegal.      Without a

subpoena, a warrant or permission from the customer, the only way legally to obtain

personal records is to dig through someone’s trash, according to a spokesman with the

California attorney general’s office, which is investigating the Hewlett-Packard case

(Clark, 2006). In addition, as earlier stated, investigators are not entirely aware of the

legal, ethical, and public relations traps that surround big companies (Orley, 2006).

Companies must keep this aspect in mind when considering corporate surveillance, as

legal liability could become insurmountable in a very short period of time.

       Another law that may be violated in situations of corporate surveillance is the

Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. This federal law was passed in response to a number of

major corporate and accounting scandals including over inflation of stock prices

(Wikipedia, 2006). For example, in 1999, an employee of PairGain Technologies, Inc.

was charged with securities fraud for disseminating a false report that said PairGain was

being acquired for double its value (Leonard and France, 2003). That had the effect of

inflating the company’s stock price, which is a direct violation of Sarbanes-Oxley.

Legal Considerations

       While guarding against a variety of risks, employers must be aware of the legal

restrictions that govern methods of workplace monitoring. Many employers might be

tempted to adopt an “ignorance is bliss” approach toward such employee misconduct;

                                            7
however, under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is legally responsible for

employees’ wrongful acts done within the scope of their employment even if the

employer was unaware of the misdeeds. A monitoring program alone will not necessarily

insulate an employer from discrimination or harassment claims, but it can be an effective

way of keeping track of employee misconduct (Leonard and France, 2003). This is why

it is so important that an effective plan is widely disseminated to all affected employees.

       In addition, the ECPA contains a loophole that may limit employer liability for

electronic communications, which applies expressly to the transmission of such

communications and does not include the electronic storage of such communications.

Therefore, courts have distinguished between monitoring electronic communications

such as e-mail messages while they are being transmitted versus viewing e-mails while

they are in storage. Viewing stored e-mails is similar to searching through an employee’s

papers and files.   Several courts confronting this issue have found that monitoring

electronic communications after transmission does not run afoul of the ECPA (Leonard

and France, 2003). Hence, the ability to distinguish status of transmissions is essential.

       The ECPA merely sets the minimum restrictions on employee monitoring, thus,

individual states are free to impose greater limitations. Minnesota, Statute § 626A.02

states: It is legal for a person to record a wire, oral or electronic communication if that

person is a party to the communication, or if one of the parties has consented to the

recording – so long as no criminal or tortuous intent accompanies the recording (A

Practical Guide in 50 States and D.C., 2003). To prevail on a related claim, an employee

must assert a right to privacy with respect to the information being monitored. This is yet

another reason for employers to make it clear to employees that they have no expectation

of privacy when using the company’s information systems.

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       The federal Wiretapping Act prohibits the interception of stored voice-mail

messages, as well as live telephone calls. However, employers may engage in legal

surveillance of oral telephone communications if they do it in the ordinary course of

business.   This exception is particularly important to employers who maintain

telemarketing or customer service operations because of their particular interest in

ensuring quality control. Other legitimate reasons to monitor calls include protection of

trade secrets and ensuring compliance with noncompete agreements. In all cases where

the employer feels a compelling business need to monitor calls, the best practice is to

obtain the employee’s advance written consent. The EPCA provides that the moment an

employer realizes a telephone conversation is personal in nature, the employer must stop

listening. Even employee consent probably will not suffice to protect the employer,

unless the employee specifically consents to unlimited monitoring of both business and

personal calls (Leonard and France, 2003).

       Employees and corporations must be aware of the implications of the law the

statutes cover. Violations are punishable by a fine of not more than $20,000, and a term

of five years in prison or both (Hidden Cameras, Hidden Microphones – MN, 2006).

Public Relations

       Unnecessary eavesdropping can create poor employee morale (Leonard and

France, 2003). This is why employers must be able to justify any such monitoring as

protecting the legitimate interests of the business. It is important to communicate this

widely to all involved employees so they understand that monitoring is being done for the

good of the company as a whole and for the general protection of the workforce. In the

absence of communicating these reasons, employees are likely to assume the company

doesn’t trust them as individuals, which, in turn, will detract from employee morale and

                                             9
diminish loyalty to the company. Ultimately, negative publicity such as this will further

erode employee and consumer confidence in the product or the corporation under

scrutiny. As a result of this negative publicity, the corporation may ultimately be faced

with the possibility of eroding stock prices as well.

Actionable Solutions

       These issues force employers to become proactive. To comply with the legal

restrictions governing employee monitoring, employers must establish and disseminate to

employees a clearly written notice that their e-mails, Internet usage, and telephone calls

are subject to monitoring, without any further warning (Leonard and France, 2003). Even

without a monitoring policy in place, an employer should state expressly that it is not

obligated to monitor employee communications. Otherwise, employees may claim that

the company failed to protect them if harmful or offensive conduct occurs and the

employer fails to catch it through monitoring. The following should be considered when

developing a computer and telephone policy (Leonard and France, 2003):

      Specify what information systems are governed by the monitoring policy (i.e.

       e-mail, Internet, telephone calls, voice mail, instant messaging) and inform

       employees that monitoring can occur without further notice.

      Establish that the company’s computer and telephone systems are the property of

       the company, albeit the fact that employees have their own passwords for

       accessing the systems.

      Specify that employees should not maintain any expectation of privacy while

       using the company’s computer or telephone.




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        Specify that the company’s computers and telephones are generally intended for

         business-related usage.

        Prohibit the transmittal or downloading of material that is offensive,

         pornographic, obscene, profane, discriminatory, harassing, insulting, derogatory,

         or otherwise unlawful.

        Prohibit the transmittal or dissemination of the company’s confidential

         information or trade secrets to any outside source.

        Explain to employees that all communications and files are subject to employer

         monitoring, and that the employer has access to all such files, even those files that

         the employee has deleted from the system.

        Inform employees that any unauthorized usage of the company’s information

         systems can result in discipline up to and including discharge.

        Implement any disciplinary action taken pursuant to this policy fairly and

         consistently to avoid claims of discrimination.

        Require all employees to sign a written acknowledgement that they have read and

         understand the policy, and agree to abide by its terms as a condition of

         employment with the company.

         Approaching the issue of monitoring with sensitivity to employee privacy rights

will help alleviate the employee discontent that often accompanies workplace monitoring.

Further measures that are being investigated include monitoring employee activities and

whereabouts through the use of global positioning systems (GPS); which will certainly

raise many new and interesting privacy, ethical, and legal considerations (Verespej,

2006).



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Future Recommendations

       “Keep in mind, monitoring is not a substitute for good management practices,”

according to Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workright Institute in Princeton,

New Jersey. Malbty further stresses, “Employers would be better served in the long run

by removing the emphasis from monitoring and employ management practices that

monitor the quality of the work their employees are producing.” (Verespej, 2006).

       Another helpful hint is to keep in mind that policies on employee monitoring are

much easier to integrate as early on as possible in the life of your company because it is

only human for employees to resist giving up their “privacy” once they’ve had it for a

while. Establish trust, and let your employees do their jobs with the knowledge that if

they do something that you define as unacceptable, there will be consequences. This

way, employees will know what to expect. Until the courts sort it all out, it is up to each

individual company to decide where to draw the line as employers should have the right

to decide how their own property is used (Beaver, 2002).




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                              III. Case Questions

1. In a union shop, what convincing ethical arguments would you (the company)

   offer in bargaining for a system to monitor employee activity in the workplace?

2. When implementing a policy to monitor employee e-mails, Internet usage and

   telephone calls, what is the best process to disseminate information to the

   workforce? Remember, in the future you may have to defend this was done.

3. If you were in a management position within a company, and you became aware

   of a violation of the e-mail policy, but the offender was your distant relative, how

   would you handle this? Remember, the company has a zero tolerance policy.

4. When confronted by an employee comparing the privacy laws in our country to

   that of the European Union, what ethical arguments could you make to defend the

   current privacy laws in either country?

5. Do you see any plausible argument why members of the board of directors,

   including the CEO, should not be required to follow monitoring policies?

6. Do you think the board of directors and the CEO should have to disclose more

   about their private lives and their personal expenditures?

7. Since dumpster diving is not illegal, can you think of any possible situation where

   it is acceptable?

8. Overall, do you agree there are times when surveillance is appropriate or do you

   believe it is an unacceptable invasion of privacy?

9. What would you do if you had strong suspicions that your company was being

   snooped upon by a competitor?

10. What other proactive measures could a company employ to discourage violations

   of monitoring policies or other corporate snooping?

                                        13
                                   IV. List of Sources

       A Practical Guide in 50 States and D.C. (2003). Can We Tape? 1-5.

<www.rcfp.org/taping/cwt_menu.html> <http://www.rcfp.org/taping/states/minn.html>

       American Companies Increase Use of Electronic Monitoring: AMA Calls on

Employers to Raise Level of Dialogue with Employees (2006). American Management

Association, 1-2. <http://www.amanet.org/research/specials/elecmont.htm>

       Baxter, A. (2006).      McGuire Out at UnitedHealth Amid Options Scandal.

Minnesota Public Radio, 1-2.

<http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2006/10/15/unh/>

       Beaver, K. (2002). Where Do You Draw the Line On Employee Monitoring?

Risk Management Strategies, 1-5.

<http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/tip/1,289483,sid14_gci856577,00.html>

       Burrows, P. (2006). Controlling the Damage at HP. Business Week, October 9,

2006. 36-44.

       Can We Use Video Surveillance to Monitor Our Employees? H.R. Solutions.

H.R. Magazine, October, 2006. 46.

       Clark, H (2006). Are You Being Watched at Work? Companies Relying on

Surveillance From the Cubicle to the Boardroom. MSNBC, 1-4.

<http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14896416/>

       Computer Monitoring Often Not Acceptable Outside U.S. (2006).           H.R.

Technology Library – Privacy and Security. SHRM Home Report, 1-4.

<http://www.shrm.org/hrtx/library_published/nonIC/CMS_006615.asp>

       Electronic Surveillance Laws (2006), Laws and Enactments. The USA Patriot

Act, H.R. 3162, 1-5. <http://www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/CIP/surveillance.htm>

                                           14
       Employee Monitoring: Is There privacy in the Workplace? (2006). Fact Sheet 7:

Workplace Privacy, 1-5. <http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs7-work.htm>

       Hamm, S. (2006). Good Timing, Carly. Business Week, October 2, 2006. 32.

       Hidden Cameras, Hidden Microphones in Minnesota (2006). At the Crossroads

of Journalism, Ethics, and the Law, 1-3.

<http://www.rtnda.org/resources.hiddencamera/minnesota.html>

       Leonard, D.C. and France A.H. (2003).     Workplace Monitoring.     Balancing

Business Interests With Employee Privacy Rights. SHRM Legal Report, 1-6.

<http://www.shrm.org.hrresources/lrpt_published/CMS_005109.asp>

       Maurer, H. (2006). News You Need to Know, Options Watch. Business Week,

October 30, 2006. 32.

       Obdyke, L. (2002). Searches and Surveillance in Today’s Workplace. SHRM

White Paper, 1-3.

<http://www.shrm.org/hrresources/whitepapers_published/CMS_000194.asp>

       Orey, M. (2006). Corporate Snoops. Companies Everywhere are Using Pros to

Dig Up Dirt. Business Week, October 9, 2006. 46–49.

       Peticolas, S. and Heslin K.R (2006).      Electronic Communications in the

Workplace:    A New Challenge in Employment Law.         SHRM Legal Report, 1-5.

<http://www.shrm.org/hrresources/lrpt_published/CMS_000948.asp>

       Tchen, H. (2006). What About Those Leaky Board Members? Business Week,

October 30, 2006. 20.

       Thelen, J.B. (2005).    Employers Must Bargain Over Use of Hidden Video

Surveillance Cameras, 1.

<http://www.shrm.org/hrnews_published/archives/CMS_013381.asp>

                                           15
       Verespej, M. (2005). Who Should Be Monitoring Your Employees’ Messages?

SHRM Home Report, 1-2.

<http://www.shrm.org/hrnews_published/archives/CMS_013353.asp>

       Wikipedia (2006). From Wikipedia, the free on-line encyclopedia. Redirected

from Sarbanes oxley, 1-9. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarbanes_oxley>




                                         16
                                 V. Additional Information

        Employees who have sued their employers for invasion of privacy based on e-

mail monitoring generally have not enjoyed much success. Below is a selection of

relevant cases that clearly illustrate that point:

Monitoring E-mail Communications

        Smyth v. Pillsbury. In the case of Smyth v. Pillsbury, a Pennsylvania federal

court concluded that no reasonable person would consider an e-mail interception as a

highly offensive violation of privacy. The employee sent unprofessional comments to his

supervisor via the company’s e-mail system. Specifically, the messages threatened that

the employee would “kill the backstabbing” colleagues, and referred to a holiday office

party as the “Jim Jones Kool-Aid affair.” The employer intercepted these e-mails and

fired the employee who sent them. The court determined that the company had a

business privacy interest. This employer-friendly ruling is especially compelling given

that the employer had no written policy regarding employee monitoring and had informed

employees that all e-mail communications would remain confidential and privileged

(Leonard and France, 2003).

        Bourke v. Nissan Motor Corporation. Likewise, a California court concluded

that Nissan’s employees did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when sending

workplace e-mails. Nissan reviewed e-mail messages of a personal and sexual nature

between two employees and ultimately terminated one of the two. The other employee

voluntarily quit after receiving a final warning regarding her performance. The two

employees sued for, among other things, invasion of privacy and violation of the ECPA

because Nissan had monitored and reviewed their e-mail communications. The court

noted that the employees had signed a computer registration agreement that limited their

                                               17
use of the computers to company business, and that they were aware that their e-mails

previously had been read by individuals other than the intended recipients. Given these

circumstances, the court concluded that the employees’ expectations of privacy were not

reasonable and dismissed the case before trial (Leonard and France, 2003).

Monitoring Internet Usage

       Continental Airlines. In the late 1990s, a female employee sued Continental

alleging that postings on a company-affiliated electronic bulletin board created a gender-

based hostile working environment.        The female pilot’s male counterparts posted

messages that she claimed disparaged her female status – one message in particular

referred to her as a “feminazi.” The pilot’s lawsuit claimed that Continental had failed to

take appropriate measures to stop the discriminatory Web postings. The New Jersey

court first grappled with the issue of whether an electronic bulletin board maintained by

an outside company could serve as a basis for a workplace harassment claim, but the

parties settled the case before the New Jersey court could definitely answer this question

(Leonard and France, 2003).

Monitoring Telephone Calls and Voice Mail

       Sanders v. Robert Bosch Corp. Bosch Corporation, an employer doing business

in South Carolina surreptitiously recorded all employees’ calls, including their personal

calls, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An employee sued alleging that the employer’s

unlimited monitoring of calls violated her rights under the federal wiretapping law. The

employer defended its practice on the ground that the monitoring of calls violated her

rights under the federal wiretapping law. The employer defended its practice on the

ground that the monitoring was in response to bomb threats.           However, the court

concluded that such a measure was drastic and not properly tailored to address the threat

                                            18
issue. Therefore, the business purpose exception was inapplicable (Leonard and France,

2003).

         Watkins v. L.M. Berry & Co.          Berry and Co., an Alabama employer had

listened to an employee’s entire telephone conversation, even though the employer had

quickly realized that the employee was talking to a personal friend about social topics.

The court in Watkins interpreted the business purpose exception to mean that an

employer may monitor an employee’s telephone call up to the point that it determines

that it is personal in nature, and then the employer must cease (Leonard and France,

2003).

Surveillance Monitoring

         Copeland v. Hubbard Broadcasting, Inc. Under state court interpretations,

when an employee of a local television station secretly videotaped a veterinarian treating

a pet in a private home for an investigative news report, the station did not violate the

wiretapping law because its employee was a party to the communication and it had no

tortuous intent. Regardless of the fact that allegations of tortuous trespassing existed, the

court found the station’s intent was commercial, not tortuous (A Practical Guide in 50

States and D.C., 2003).

         Clearly these cases point out how complicated the issues of workforce monitoring

and corporate surveillance are. The importance of well-developed policies cannot be

overstated. Of equal importance is that policies are disseminated to the workforce in an

understandable manner and contain an exception in the form of an express statement that

the employer is not obligated to monitor communications. Following these guidelines

will help ensure employees are protected for the overall good of the company.



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