Q. I would like to install GPS tracking devices in company-owned vehicles to track my employees’ whereabouts and determine whether they are making effective use of company time. I would prefer not to notify my employees that I will be installing these devices. Would I subject my company to any liability for violating our employees’ right to privacy if I take this step?
A. It is difficult for employees to prevail if they claim that a private employer has breached their right to privacy, especially when it comes to company-owned equipment. In order to prevail on such a claim, employees must establish that they had reasonable expectations of privacy and that the employer acted extremely and outrageously to breach those expectations.
If the company vehicles in which you intend to install the monitoring devices are used exclusively for company business, employees would have difficulty establishing reasonable expectations of privacy. However, if employees are permitted to use company vehicles for private use and you utilize devices to monitor their off-work activities, they would have a much stronger claim.
The best practice before engaging in any acts of employee surveillance is to establish a company policy that clearly states that employees should have no expectation of privacy in company-owned equipment, and specifically identify the equipment that the policy covers.