A legal battle erupted recently when an employer began using new technology to keep an eye on employees.
Two fire inspectors in Bridgeport, Connecticut were required to travel to different buildings to perform their inspections. They drove city-owned vehicles which were equipped with GPS systems.
But the navigation tools weren’t there to help the employees get around — they were used by the city to monitor where the employees were when they were on duty. The workers weren’t told the devices were installed.
The two employees were disciplined after the GPS showed they took unauthorized breaks between jobs. They sued, claiming the city violated a Connecticut law requiring employers to notify employees that their activities are being monitored electronically.
But the state supreme court tossed the case. Why? The law doesn’t allow employees to sue — violations must be brought before the state labor commissioner, who has the power to levy a fine of up to $500 for the first offense.
Though the city managed to avoid getting sued, it could still be fined for the monitoring.
In addition to Connecticut, Delaware also has a law on the books prohibiting monitoring of employees’ “telephone transmissions, electronic mail or Internet usage” without notification. Other states, such as Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts, have similar laws pending.
Regardless of the laws in your state, most experts recommend telling employees you plan to monitor their computer use. In fact, being aware the company is watching could be enough to deter most employees from breaking computer use policies.
Cite: Gerardi v. City of Bridgeport