What The U.S Laws State about Employee Monitoring


Employee monitoring is a sensitive issue for employers as they worry about their legal boundaries. The discrepancy in the state laws adds to the dilemma as no one wants to end up facing a lawsuit for violating laws pertaining to employee privacy. After going through the legal aspect of this matter, we are sharing our understanding of the legal issues associated with employee monitoring. Let’s have a closer look at the employee monitoring laws in the United States and how they affect employers and employees.

Employee Monitoring Laws in the U.S

According to the Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), employers have a full right to monitor the company-owned devices, including PCs, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. The law clearly states that employers are not answerable to anyone for monitoring the company-owned devices. This means that you can monitor your employees without telling them about it. Here, it is important to mention that these laws may vary from one state to the other, but overall, it is legal to monitor all the online activities of employees, including their emails, browsing history, Skype and WhatsApp chat, social media activities, SMS exchange, call logs, contact details, etc. on company-owned devices.

There is a Small Twist

According to a few federal laws such as ECPA, 18 U.S.C. § 2511, it is illegal to monitor the private emails of the employees. You can only monitor the official email address of your employees. It is also prohibited to use the log-in details of employees for getting access to their email address or other accounts as it is a clear violation of their privacy. In addition, employers cannot monitor the personal devices of employees. This is done to protect the privacy of employees. Another twist is that employers are not allowed to monitor employees in certain conditions. For instance, according to a few state laws, union contracts may limit the monitoring power of employers. In the same way, the Fourth Amendment in the U.S Constitution prohibits employers from unreasonable search.

What The Experts Have to Say

Professional lawyers strongly recommend creating an internet usage and employee monitoring policy in order to avoid litigations. You must create a detailed document mentioning the rules and regulations regarding the use of the internet. Do not forget to talk with the employees and listen to their concerns while creating a monitoring policy in order to make sure they are also on the same page. If you are monitoring the company-owned devices, then it is better to tell the employees about it. However, this is not a legal requirement. You must give the copy of the policy to every employee at the time of recruitment. Apart from this, employers should only monitor the work-related activities of employees.

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