Access of technology has enabled employees to work more efficiently and effectively. As more companies embrace telecommunication, the recent concern has been the fact that employers are keen on tracking merely everything that employees do in the office. Thus, there occur more and more issues concerning employee’s privacy rights and employers’ rights with specific reference to business property and how employees spend their time at work.
It seems that allowing employees to use internet for personal issues while at work is time saving and cost effective. However, it is implicitly expensive in the long run. Studies indicate that 37% of employees get addicted to workplace surfing for private needs and they surf constantly at work (Jennings, 2009). Failure to regulate this may cost organizations their productivity targets and customer satisfaction needs. Access to pornographic sites may also cause network jamming and the employer may be held liable for an atmosphere of harassment through the internet. Employees would spend more time surfing organization’s internet for private needs during the work time than they spend during lunch breaks.
Electronic monitoring is more certain and definite unlike the physical surveillance. Employees are much aware that their conducts and private operations in the office are being monitored. Electronic monitoring delves more into the private life of employees while at work since it monitors all the undertakings during the office hours. Jennings (2009) cited that privacy protection rarely applies in the case of law enforcement. An employer will always be held liable in cases when employees’ use of company internet contributes to defamation or sexual harassment of a third party. In case of e-mail warrants, the employer will still be held liable for employees’ usage (Glass & Behling, 1999). The employer is held liable for the hostile environment that results from employees surfing using organization’s internet. In law enforcement, corporation’s electronic mail system is considered a business property and only meant exclusively for transacting corporation’s business (Jennings, 2009). The corporation and the employer, thus, retain the right to monitor all the electronic messages sent and received by employees. The privacy rights are, thus, inapplicable in law enforcement.
Disclosure of monitoring activities lessens the perception that it invades employees’ privacy. Although there are still no exact legal clauses on privacy rights of employees, notification of employees that they will be monitored and the frequency of such surveillance will make employees aware that the employer has no ill motives in such monitoring. If it was not disclosed, it would appear to be driven more by malice (Tabak & Smith, 2005). Therefore, with respect to ethics related to e-mail, voice mail, and fax technology, businesses should make it clear that an employer holds the right to monitor all online activities of the employees (Jennings, 2009). This helps in guiding employees and limits the accusations and negative perceptions that the employer is spying their private lives. It should also be made clear that all e-mail, voice mail, and fax technologies and their use through organization’s internet constitute offense warranting sanctions from the employer (Glass & Behling, 1999).
Policies concerning the subject matter of e-mail and voice mails should focus on making it employer’s right to access all the mail exchanges at work. The subject matter of all the voicemails and e-mails should not include any information that may betray the business through release of business secrets to rivals or unauthorized persons (Tabak & Smith, 2005). Such information should be free of any mischief. This is why an employer should be given the liberty to retrieve all such information and discover it in litigation. Such policies would protect the employer against losses caused by access of organization’s top business secrets.
In conclusion, the debate over the rights of employees to privacy at work rages on. Whereas employees’ main concern is privacy, employers are more concerned about productivity, network security, organization, and the employees. Clear policies and ethical frameworks, thus, need to be developed to guide employees’ use of company communication media.