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Privacy Laws for Employees and Employers


shutterstock_77337466Federal, state, and local legislation provide a basic source of protection against invasion of privacy by private parties, including employers.Legislation also limits privacy rights, however, that may otherwise exist under common law or other statutes. Also important to remember is that the law on privacy varies greatly from state to state.

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Simply posting a sign in the parking lot that cars are subject to search, for example, doesn’t always preclude employees’ rights to privacy in all areas of the country. It’s important for employers to determine what they legally can search – such as desks, lockers, and lunchboxes – and under what circumstances before a problem arises. Employers also need to communicate clearly to employees what their expectations of privacy in the workplace are.

Mastering HR Report: Employee Privacy

Drug and alcohol testing
Employers who incorporate drug and alcohol testing policies into their background checking process can almost certainly expect questions about privacy to arise. Like all other workplace privacy issues, there are as many different boundaries and rules regarding employees’ rights in the face of drug and alcohol testing as there are legal jurisdictions in the United States.

50 Employment Laws in 50 States, including drug testing

Privacy in the electronic workplace
Currently, physical searches are taking a backseat to issues created by the tech-driven workplace, which often veer into uncharted legal territory. It’s no longer necessary for supervisors to literally look over an employee’s shoulder. New monitoring tools, such as computer software, can record keystrokes, data entry errors, times for starting work and breaks, and the time and date that documents are opened and closed.

Bar codes track jobs as they move through the production system and allow precise measurements of workers’ productivity. Database and e-mail systems allow managers to review report drafts, track time, contents, and quality of documents as they progress through a team or hierarchy, and read both business and personal communications. The line for how and when all that data can be used is being decided and rewritten at all levels of government.

Basic Training for Supervisors – easy-to-read training guides, including employee health information privacy

Personal information
Also of concern is the fact that through record requirements for health insurance, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and theAmericans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and such employers may learn about employees’ health conditions and personal information. Employers have a serious responsibility to refrain from divulging information contained in medical records they come across.

They also have a duty to take measures to protect such sensitive personal information as social security numbers from inside or outsideidentity theft, a fairly recent, critically important area of concern for HR personnel.

Benefits Complete Compliance – comprehensive online management reference service and reference manual

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