Employee Inquiry and Investigation

Attention has been called to Director Steve Harman, because of the alleged suspicious activity and behavior he has been exhibiting for the past six months - Employee Inquiry and Investigation introduction. As noticed and reported by his subordinate, Steve Harman has been spending a notable amount of time searching online job boards, and was heard to have said that he could “make a lot of money by doing consultant work for one of our primary competitors”.

            Because of these accounts, it is suspected that Mr. Harman may be inappropriately communicating with another company. An investigation has been ensued to allay the concerns of the company, with the assistance of the chief information security officer (CISO) and the Corporate Privacy Officer (CPO). The CISO is the senior-level executive within the company responsible for ensuring information assets is adequately guarded. The CPO oversees the monitoring of the organization’s services and systems to assure meaningful privacy practices.

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They will work together to assure that the company is protected and at the same time, the employee’s right to privacy is not violated. The balance between the two goals is the main ethical concern.

            Mr. Harman may be observed by using software that could monitor an employee’s internet activities such as email, instant message, keystrokes, print Jobs, FTP file transfer, websites visited, and applications used. Some software can also can log file operations on an employee’s computer, such as copy, delete, create, rename, open, and copy file to removable disk, this is helpful in ensuring that confidential information is not being leaked.

            The purpose of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 is to deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and other purposes, which include the strengthening U.S. measures to prevent, detect and prosecute international money laundering and financing of terrorism (FinCEN, n.d.). This act is not applicable to this case until hints of financial trespasses with connections to terrorism are detected.

“There are a couple of downsides to monitoring in the workplace,” agrees Beth Givens, Director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse Project in San Diego. “If monitoring is done secretly, without there being a written privacy policy, the employer faces the risk of privacy-related lawsuits. Even though the vast majority of such lawsuits have been decided on the side of the employer, lawsuits cost employers a lot of money and time.”

If a company decides to take action based on monitoring, it’s better if there is probable cause. “If the monitoring is random or ongoing, rather than based upon ‘individualized suspicion,’ the employer risks creating the perception that they do not trust their employees. That could result in a morale problem,” says Givens (Cador, 2000)

The management has to be educated regarding the ethical dimensions of an employee inquiry. There are a few general guidelines to keep in mind; any information gathered during the employment relationship serves as information businesses’ need to know. Information has to be gathered by the least invasive method. The information has to be maintained in a confidential manner designed to prevent unauthorized access, and that information must not be used unfairly by the employer or a third party.

            Another important aspect is the protection of the whistleblower, as in this case, the person who raises concern about a wrongdoing occurring in the organization must remain anonymous unless otherwise needed. Whistleblowers may make their allegations internally by reporting the misconduct to a fellow employee or superior within their company. Whistleblowers are usually seen as the unselfish individual protecting the company interest, but their anonymity will shelter them from the others who think of them as a ‘tattle tales’, ‘gossipmongers’ or ‘snitches’.


FinCEN (n.d.) Financial Crimes Enforcement network United States Department of the Treasury USA Patriot Act. Retrieved May 22, 2010 from <http://www.fincen.gov/statutes_regs/patriot/>

Cador, John (2000) The right corporate policy: E-mail and Internet monitoring. Legal Challenges. Retrieved May 22, 2010 from <http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10878_11-1036438.html>

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