Employee monitoring: How to avoid legal pitfalls
Employers should know where to draw the line
In recent times technology has improved by leaps and bounds. More and more people are active on the social media platforms today. At the same time the legal framework has not moved at the same pace thereby creating a huge gap that keeps on getting widened day by day. The easy access to electronic instruments such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops as well as the internet has resulted in the shrinking of space between official correspondence and social media. This is naturally a cause of worry for the employers as they have an apprehension that security of official data can be compromised with.
This is a risk that the employers should seek to address. One way of addressing this problem is to set boundaries and formulate rules which have to be followed by the employees. The employer also has the option of monitoring the usage of the IT systems by their employees. However there are certain rights available to the employees which the employers should be aware of. Infringements of these rights could have legal repercussions for the employer.
A start has to be made
It should be clearly demarcated as to what is appropriate and what is not. The employer should be clear in his thought about this factor. He should also make up his mind whether the employee behavior in this matter should be monitored or not. He should also be clear as to how he should go about in this process. There are many methods of doing these checks.
The employer should also consider whether monitoring the entire IT usage of the employee is necessary or not. He should also weigh as what would be the implications it could have on the employee. The employer should explore less intrusive methods too before forming any guidelines in this matter. These points should be documented by them during their discussions.
The employee should be kept in the loop
Once the rules have been framed, it is the duty of the employer to communicate the same to the employees. It is always better if the employees know what they are supposed to do and what they cannot. This is also to the advantage of the employer as the employee cannot later on take the plea of being ignorant of the rules. This policy document should be shared in detail with the employees.
Failure to do so can result in legal complications for the employer. The fact that the employee can be monitored should be known to the employee. In fact he should be provided with a copy of the policy document and provided training too.
Creating a special workforce
Now that the policy is in place, the employer has the responsibility of identifying special people for the job. The information so collected from the employees should be stored as per the provisions of the law. It makes sense for the employer to keep the strength of such special staff at the minimum. The monitoring powers of such employees should also be restricted in order to avoid any case of illegal snooping.
Employee’s right to privacy should be protected
One thing that the employers should always keep in mind is that every employee has a right to his privacy. Today it has been observed that employees are allowed to bring their own devices to the work place. The employer should have a clear idea as to what constitutes employee privacy right and what does not. He should ensure that this right is not encroached upon under any circumstances. It has been observed that courts take a serious view on such infringements. There is a very thin line separating what should be treated as private and what should not.
The employer should know how to juggle between these points and come up with a strict but effective and perfectly legally accepted monitoring policy. The employer should ascertain that the privacy of the employee is not infringed upon and at the same time ensure that security of the official data is not compromised. This is a tough balancing job which has to be done.
Care to be taken while monitoring
Emails are the main ways of communication through which confidential data can be leaked. However it would be impractical on the part of employers to restrict emails. There could also be a problem monitoring each and every email communication. There are certain regulatory bodies which have the right to seek information as per the provisions of the law. Under such circumstances the employer is bound to furnish the required information.
The employer should be wary of these provisions while formulating the policies. Care should be taken by the employer that this particular disclosure clause in included in the policy document failing which it could be construed as an infringement.
Educating the employee is of paramount importance
It goes without saying that monitoring policies should be framed and adhered to. However, educating the employee about the implications of the policy should be of paramount importance. The monitoring policy should be there in force, no doubt but it should be used as the last trump card. There should be perfect coordination between this policy and other policies of the organization. In fact it is better if the clauses of the monitoring policy form part of the employment contract itself.
Policies are there to be framed and followed for the successful functioning of an organization. It is the duty of the employee to see to that these policies are strictly being adhered to. At the same time it is the duty of the employer to ensure that the rights of the employee are not infringed upon at any point of time. The employee too should understand that certain decorum has to be maintained and that he does not do anything so as to jeopardize the security of official data under any circumstances. A perfect balance is required to be maintained for effective functioning of the organization as a whole.