With the topic of online privacy so hot in the news these days, it’s a good time to talk about it from an employer/employee standpoint. What rights do Connecticut employers and employees have when it comes to workplace privacy?
Let’s look at two Connecticut Department of Labor workplace laws which relate to employer surveillance and electronic monitoring.
According to Sec. 31-48b, the use of electronic surveillance devices by employers is limited.
- No employer (or agent/representative of an employer) can operate an electronic surveillance device or system (including but not limited to the recording of sound or voice or a closed-circuit TV system) for recording or monitoring employee activities. This applies to areas designed for the health or personal comfort of employees, or for safeguarding their possessions (areas such as restrooms, locker rooms or employee lounges). Employers that violate the rules can be fined $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for a second offense. They can be imprisoned for 30 days for third and subsequent offenses.
- No employer can intentionally overhear or record a discussion (with a device or other equipment) relating to employment contract negotiations between two parties – unless they have the consent of all the involved parties. Employers that violate the rules can be fined $1,000 or imprisoned one year (or both).
According to Sec. 31-48d, employers that use electronic monitoring are required to give employees prior notice. There are some exceptions, as we’ll outline below.
- Electronic monitoring is the collection of info on an employer’s premises concerning employees’ activities or communications by any means besides direct observation – including the use of a computer, phone, wire, radio, camera and so on. This doesn’t include the collection of information for security purposes from common areas on an employer’s premises (such as an area for public use).
- An employer that wishes to engage in electronic monitoring must give prior written notice to all employees who may be affected. Employers should post, in a readily available viewing area, a notice concerning the types of monitoring they might engage in. The posted notice serves as acceptable prior written notice.
- Here’s the exception to the rule – when an employer has reason to believe that an employee is engaged in questionable conduct that violates the law, violates the legal rights of the employer or employees or creates a hostile work environment, the employer can conduct electronic monitoring without prior written notice.
- Following the necessary hearings, the Labor Commissioner may hand down a civil penalty against employers that are in violation of these laws. Maximum civil penalties are as follows – $500 for first offense, $1,000 for the second offense and $3,000 for the third and subsequent offense.
- Provisions to Sec. 31-48d don’t apply to a criminal investigation. Any information that is obtained during a criminal investigation through electronic monitoring can be used in a disciplinary proceeding against an employee.
As both an employer and employee, it’s important to know the rights surrounding workplace privacy. Should either party have questions or concerns about privacy matters, it is best to consult with the proper HR and employment law experts.