COM/285Employers are consistently having difficulty with employees using the Internet and e-mail for their own personal use. Monitoring employee Internet and e-mail usage is definitely a concern for employers and ???doing so will help maintain the company??™s professional reputation and image, maintain employee productivity, prevent and discourage sexual or other illegal workplace harassment, prevent ???cyber stalking??? by employees, prevent possible defamation liability and prevent employee disclosure of trade secrets and other confidential information.??? (Duke Law, 2001) Some companies go overboard, installing equipment in employees??™ chairs serving as a ???wiggle monitor???. This monitor is used to see how much the employee ???wiggles??? because this supposedly suggests that they are being less productive when they ???wiggle??? too much.
Currently there is no Federal ???employee workplace privacy rights law??? that will universally prohibit an employer from monitoring an employee. This means that employees and employers need to know exactly what the laws are in their own state, or what their company policy is. Most employers have a written policy that warns employees that messages sent on any company equipment are not private. Such policies allow employers to not only monitor their Internet usage and e-mail, but any sort of communication that is used with any company equipment including telephone and fax machines. Employers have the right to do so because they own the equipment the employee is using.There have been lawsuits filed from employees claiming that their employers were in violation of their constitutional right to privacy. A great example is a case that 2 defendants filed against Nissan.
This case was filed in 1993 when e-mail was not common knowledge, and employees needed training. A trainer for this department was conducting a lesson and in efforts to provide an example opened a random e-mail sent from the plaintiff to another Nissan employee, which was of personal, sexual nature. This employee reported this incident to her supervisor who then had reviewed the e-mail messages of the entire workgroup. Management then found a substantial amount of personal e-mails that were sexual as well from 2 separate employees. Management then issued warnings to both plaintiffs for violating the company policy that prohibited the use of the company computer system for personal purposes. Both plaintiffs filed a lawsuit claiming that their privacy has been invaded. This case was dismissed because it was determined that reviewing e-mail messages was in fact not a violation to their constitutional right to privacy because this was done on company time, on company equipment.My current employer does not have an established e-mail and Internet use policy.
My office consists of 2 owners and myself. They do not mind if I use the Internet or send personal e-mails as long as it does not begin to interfere with my productivity. My employers know that I attend school online and do not mind if I access my school to simply do a discussion question, or print my syllabus. I believe that because I do not take advantage of their kindness, and I always get my work done they do not put these restrictions on me. I think that if they started to notice that I was spending a lot of time on the Internet, and I was not able to finish my workload, other policies would be set into place.My previous place of employment had policies that stated that they could monitor employees Internet and e-mail usage.
They warned us that anything that was done on our computer was basically ???stamped??? with our computer ID. This discouraged us as employees from using the computers for our own personal use from the very beginning of our employment. Periodically we would receive e-mails restating the policy, and it would sometimes be brought up in our meetings as well. There were many websites that were blocked because of content, such as social networking (Facebook, Myspace, etc.)Often times employees feel that because they cannot see any monitoring taking place, they believe that it is merely a threat, rather than a real issue.
An employer can tell employees that they are being monitored but I think that until an employee gets reprimanded or fired, other employees do not necessarily believe it. I know that there were often times at my previous place of employment we had used the Internet for personal use, and sent personal e-mails without being reprimanded. I think that for the most part, if we performed well at our jobs they were pretty lenient. It was important to not take advantage of this leniency. My co-workers and I would search the Internet for our personal use, but we never allowed this to interfere with our job duties, for example as soon as a customer walked in, that customer took priority.
We would never send inappropriate e-mails to each other, or to anyone outside of work. I think that if it had gotten out of hand our immediate manager would have to put an end to this right away. I think that because he felt that we were productive he would allow us to have little ???perks???. Where do we draw the line Should employers wait until employees have taken advantage of this Or should employers go as far as installing ???wiggle monitors??? on their employees??™ chairs In both cases I feel that there should be a happy medium.
If employers choose to be lenient, employees should not take advantage of this. Adults should act like adults. People who are in the position to access the Internet and send personal e-mails should create their own line in which they do not feel should be crossed. People have personal lives, and although it can sometimes interfere with their work, just as work can sometimes interfere with people??™s personal lives each employee should have an understanding of what should or should not be done at work, or on work time. Most adults know right from wrong and it is unfortunate that because of people who do not concern themselves with this, employers find it necessary to monitor e-mails, phone calls, Internet usage and even ???wiggling???.
Regardless, each employee should be aware of their company??™s policies and abide by them. Even if the company does not have a written policy employees should know which content is not work appropriate.Reference:Duke Law (2001). Duke Law & Technology. Retrieved from http://www.law.duke.edu/journals/dltr/srticles/2201dltr026