Workplace Surveillance and Employee Privacy

Issues in the labour relations case study

The matter presented by the management of Harding Space, Inc concerns the subject of employees’ privacy at the workplace. This topic falls under employee privacy Act. In the recent, issues related to working environment privacy and how companies address this topic has brought a major conflict in the work place. Due to the rise in living standards and economic hard times, many organizations have resolved to monitor their employees. Monitoring and surveillance of employees have caused a conflict in the work place as an employer’s attempts to protect their properties. This topic has been well elaborated in the employee privacy Act of 1993.

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The case study in this paper represents a situation in which the employees are not comfortable with the set rules. Concerning employees’ surveillance and monitoring at the work place, all organization should carefully consider this subject. Although the organization has delicate issues that need to address, the organization must be able to maintain a good relationship with its employees (Cox et al., 2005).

As such, surveillance and monitoring of employee is a sensitive issue that “requires proper planning, clear policies and, detailed procedures” (Cox et al., 2005). All employees should be provided with information regarding this topic since it is an employee’s right to be informed. However, before the implementation of the surveillance or monitoring, the organization should train employees about these set rules to ensure that they understand all the basic requirements.

Although surveillance of employee at the work place is acceptable, the employer should ensure that they do not violate any of the employee’s right under the Privacy Act (Cox et al., 2005). This means that any employee’s information collected or stored by the employer must be handled carefully without infringing the rights of an employee.

Employee’s privacy rights

Employers and employees have a different opinion regarding the topic of employee privacy in the workplace. On the other hand, the organization has a responsibility to protect its interests to maximize output. One way to ensure this is through monitoring employees. However, monitoring and surveillance should not be done at the expense of the employee, who is one of the company’s assets.

As such, all employees are entitled to social rights. Whatever employees post or comment on social sites such as Twitter or Facebook should not be used to discriminate or punish them. In recent, there has been an increase in cases of cyberstalking at the workplace, forcing employers to develop strict rules over internet use at the workplace. Under the Privacy Act of 1986, employees are entitled to some rights, although the employer can still monitor his employees (Campbell, 1991).

Employee’s privacy rights also cover their personal belongings that include handbags, backpack, and briefcase (Campbell, 1991). On the other hand, employers should not put surveillance in those places where employees change clothes and so on. Additionally, employees should not be under any form of monitoring or surveillance without their knowledge and consent. In addition to such employees’ right, personal information should not be disclosed to the public, and such information must not be used for other reasons other than what the agreement between the employer and employee states (Campbell, 1991). For instance, an employee’s medical history must not be disclosed to other people, nor the employer should use it to gain an insurance cover.

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The federal laws do not allow any form of monitoring without employees knowledge; this protects employees from exploitation (Campbell, 1991). Therefore, employees should not be discriminated by their employers based on sex, gender, race, religion, or nationality. Any form of discrimination is against human rights. To ensure employees rights are protected to prevent any anticipated conflict between employers and employees, employees should know that any property provided by their employers can be monitored at any time (Campbell, 1991).

Employer’s monitoring rights

Employers have the right to monitor and survey employees at the workplace. As such, employers should not be restricted in their ability to monitor calls made by employees while at work. Campbell (1991) says that, under the Privacy Act of 1986, employers have reasons to monitor any communication that takes place at the workplace because employers own the communication system. However, the same Act states that communication can only be monitored to a certain level to allow personal space for employees.

Employers have numerous reasons why they would want to monitor their employees. Foremost, an employer can monitor his employee for business reasons (Nash, 2009). Guarding business or trade secrete is an essential concept in every business. When an employee monitors employees, it is one way of ensuring that trade secrets do not escape at all.

Secondly, monitoring employ is important to avoid liabilities (Nash, 2009). Employers have enough reasons to monitor all calls made by their employees. When cases of harassment or discrimination have happened, the employer is accountable to all acts committed by their employees. This is regardless of his awareness of the matter (Cox et all, 2005). If any employee abuses other people using the company phone, the employer will face all the consequences, including paying fines. This is a liability to the company.

Additionally, an employer may decide to monitor the calls made by the employees at the work environment to boost productivity (Nash, 2009). Workers tend to misuse some of the company resources, but when monitoring is done properly, employees will use such applications correctly. Such measures will ensure that workers concentrate on their duties hence increasing productivity. Lastly, employers have the right to survey and monitor their employees concerning making calls because the employer is the owner of the communication system at work (Nash, 2009).


Campbell, R. (1991). Employee Rights Handbook. New York: Minute Help Press.

Cox, S., Goette, T. & Dale, Y. Workplace Surveillance and Employee Privacy: Implementing an effective computer use policy. Journal of communication of IIMA, 5 (2): pp. 1-9.

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Nash, (2009). Workplace Privacy: Proceedings NY 58th Annual Conference on Labor. Journal of Kluwer Law International, 3 (3): pp. 1-45.

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