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5 legal ways you can monitor your employees

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

How far can you go in monitoring employees? Some 90% of U.S. companies do some type of electronic monitoring of workers, according to a recent American Management Association study.

But there are fine legal lines involved. Here are five steps you can legally take:

  1. Videotape open work areas. The courts have ruled that disclosed, soundless video cameras are the safest option. Don’t use video surveillance where a worker would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as dressing rooms, nursing mother’s areas or restrooms.
  2. Search lockers. Be sure you have grounds for reasonable suspicion of unlawful contents (drugs, weapons, etc.) and have police present. Write a clearly articulated policy that says lockers can be searched if illegal activities or violations of rules are suspected. Advice: If you have a policy allowing searches, require employees to sign a “consent to search” form when hired. Any search policy should be applied neutrally and consistently to all employees.
  3. Review email, voice mail and internet use. Because the company owns these communication modes, you are allowed to monitor them. Provide written notice to workers that all electronic and phone messages are the property of the company, should be used for business purposes and are not considered private.
  4. Monitor telephone calls. You can monitor phone calls for “legitimate business purposes,” such as checking on the quality of your customer service calls. Again, it’s best to forewarn employees and incoming callers that such monitoring may occur and the calls may be recorded. Some states make it a crime to record a phone call without the consent of all parties.
  5. Check up on employees taking FMLA leave. Courts have upheld employers’ rights to monitor employees taking leave under the FMLA as long as the employer has a reasonable suspicion that the employee is abusing leave.

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