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Using GPS to track employees: Know your rights, responsibilities

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

It's a fact: A small but growing number of employers use location-awareness technology, better known as global positioning systems, or GPS, to help keep track of their employees, boost productivity, sharpen customer service and beat false claims.

Safety is what's driving the use of GPS in the workplace. By 2006, four of every five vehicles will come equipped with a GPS unit in the dashboard or driver's seat. And a federal law requires all cell phones to include GPS by late 2005 to help emergency crews respond to 911 calls.

For businesses, this may mean the ability to track employees anywhere on the globe, which has some employee-advocate groups raising the privacy flag.

No current federal law protects employees when their employers use GPS technology. Workers must seek protection under state privacy laws. But even then, courts have generally protected only certain obvious areas, such as the worker's home, from such monitoring. Employees cannot expect as much privacy when they're in public places or at work.

Advice: Your employees should already understand that you can monitor their use of other company equipment, such as computers and phones. Let them know that company cars or cell phones are no different. By updating your policy, you can defend against what could be a new wave of employee privacy claims.

Also, if you employ GPS technology in company-provided equipment and vehicles, tell employees about it. Explain that their continued use of the technology is considered their consent to allow the organization to use the GPS technology during working hours. Distribute revised privacy policies that address this issue, and gain employees' written consent. Finally, warn employees against disabling the tracking features during working hours.

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