Can Your Business Monitor Employees’ Movements in the Office?
Email. Social media. Even personal cell phones. There is a lot of employee activity that employers may legally monitor. But what about their actual movements throughout the office? Most employers can install and run video surveillance in the office, but that’s yesterday’s technology. Nowadays, bosses have employee badges fitted with microphones and sensors that can track physical and verbal interactions, all through an app.
So is this kind of movement monitoring legal? And does it depend on the reasoning behind the surveillance?
The Light’s On
Bloomberg has the story of one employee monitoring company, Enlightened, who can place sensors “hidden in lights, ID badges, and elsewhere,” in order to track employee movements. By knowing where and when employees move through a working space, offices can become more efficient, both in layout and energy usage. But it’s not just about which lights are on or who’s not at their desk. Some sensors can track “latency,” or “how long someone goes without speaking to another co-worker.”
For the most part, monitoring this intrusive remains in pilot stages with employees volunteering to be monitored. The majority of data collected is anonymized, and most companies have assured employees they will not to use it for performance evaluation. “It doesn’t bother me,” one such monitored employee told Bloomberg. “It’s kind of cozy when you’re working late at night to be in a pod of light.”
Anything They Want
In general, employers are on solid legal footing with this kind of surveillance. Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute told Bloomberg, “Employers can do any kind of monitoring they want in the workplace that doesn’t involve the bathroom.”
With a few caveats, of course. Some forms of employee monitoring require notice be given to employees. And there are certain kinds of employee speech that is protected under the First Amendment and labor law. To find out what legal limits your business might face when monitoring employees, talk to an experienced employment attorney.
Interesting Lawsuit of the Month-Man Ubered to Cheat on Wife, Sues Uber for His Divorce
“My client was the victim of a bug in an application. The bug has caused him problems in his private life.” While probably true, these are most likely not the words that are going to save your marriage. Also generally not a winning legal argument, but you can always try.
Those are the words of one man’s lawyer, after his client’s wife kept getting Uber alerts on her phone about his whereabouts. Apparently she was less than pleased with those whereabouts, and the two have divorced. Now he’s suing Uber for almost $50 million over the glitch.
The trouble all started when the former husband requested an Uber from his then-wife’s phone. Although he later logged out of the app, her iPhone continued getting updates on his Uber habits, including ride times and location data. As the two have since divorced, it’s obvious the former wife was not happy with what she learned.
The man’s lawyer has not revealed his client’s identity, saying only that he wished to remain discreet and anonymous. Given his history, we can see the desire for discretion, but we’re not sure a near-$50 million lawsuit against one of the world’s biggest companies is “discreet.”
Fix the Glitch
The assessment of the glitch, on the other hand, is spot-on. French newspaper Le Figaro decided to test the man’s claims, and logged in and out of Uber on one iPhone and then logged in on another. The app indeed sent screen notifications about new orders to both phones. Apparently the glitch only affected iPhones, and only until a software update in December.
Per the BBC, Uber declined to comment on the case but did say that the best possible protection of their users’ personal details was a priority. So while the man certainly was the victim of a bug in Uber’s app, we’re not sure it was the app itself that caused him problems in his private life.”
Quote of the Month
“Chess teaches you to anticipate your opponent’s threats and moves. If your opponent makes a move that surprises you, that’s a problem.”-Bob Ferguson, Washington Attorney General