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The Legal, Ethical and Managerial Concerns of Employee Monitoring

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Employee monitoring has emerged as a necessity and yet as a very controversial issue due to the widespread use of technology. Employee monitoring is the act of watching and monitoring employees’ actions during working hours using employer equipment/property. This phrase can be a little scary as an employee, where is the line? The restroom is their property; thankfully there are employers who know their boundaries. Legally employers are continuing to monitor their employees. The only issue that seems to be addressed is how much they can monitor them.

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As an employer, you should read the employee monitoring law if you want to understand the legalities of employee monitoring. It states that the employer can monitor your employees’ actions on your computers. Employers should have an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) in place that is made known to all their employees and they should be made aware that their computers and Internet activity are being monitored. Basically the law states that you can do whatever you want because the computers and the work done on them is your property.

An AUP is a written agreement, signed by employees, outlining the terms and conditions of Internet use.

It specifically sets out acceptable uses, rules of on-line behavior, and access privileges. They can also cover penalties for violations of the policy, including security violations and vandalism of the system. Anyone using the internet can be required to sign an AUP, and it should be kept on file as a legal, binding document. Balancing the legitimate need of employers to monitor the workplace with respect for individual privacy is not difficult. The best course of action is to have a monitoring policy and follow it. Legal experts state that “apathy toward e-mail and Internet policies is the biggest mistake an employer can make. It is recommended that firms have a written policy clearly stating that any right to privacy is waived for documents and messages created, stored, sent or received on the firm’s computer systems or over its networks. Achieving balance may require a reasonable monitoring policy that also sets individual privacy expectations. Legal analysts advise that setting policies with clearly stated monitoring intentions is the most important action employers can take to minimize invasion of privacy claims.

Clear-cut policies set boundaries, establish employees’ expectations of rivacy, and help set a workplace tone that conveys organizational responsibility and respect for others. In Holmes v. Petrovich Development Company, LLC, a California court ruled that emails sent by an employee to her attorney from a computer in her workplace were not protected by attorney-client privilege. The court noted that the employee had been (1) told of the company’s policy that its computers were to be used only for company business, (2) warned that the company would monitor its computers for compliance with this policy, and (3) advised that employees using company computers have no right of privacy. Holmes v. Petrovich Development Company, LLC, 2011) But the fact that employee monitoring is legal does not automatically make it right. From an ethical point of view, an employee surely does not give up all of his or her privacy when entering the workplace. To determine how far employee and employer moral rights should extend, it’s useful to start with a brief exploration of how privacy becomes a moral matter. Michael J. Meyer, SCU professor of philosophy, explains it this way: “Employees are autonomous moral agents.

Among other things, that means they have independent moral status defined by some set of rights, not the least of which is the right not to be used by others only as a means to increase overall welfare or profits. ” Applying this to the workplace, Meyer says, “As thinking actors, human beings are more than cogs in an organization—things to be pushed around so as to maximize profits. They are entitled to respect, which requires some attention to privacy. If a boss were to monitor every conversation or move, most of us would think of such an environment as more like a prison than a humane workplace. While considering employee monitoring, it is important to relate it to ethical theories for clear understanding of the ethics and ethical dilemmas which employers and employees face. Here, two issues exist: The issues are the ethics of employer monitoring and the ethics of certain employee behavior. Utilitarian theory of ethics, which is consequence based, would suggest that employers take the course of action that produces the greatest good for the greatest number of relevant stakeholders. An employee’s choice to act ethically or unethically is strongly connected to Kant’s theory of Categorical Imperative.

This theory is the notion that every person should act on only those principles that she or he, as a rational person, would prescribe as universal laws to be applied to the whole of mankind. Kant’s theory or moral rule is independent of its outcome. It stands on the principles themselves. An employee who follows his/her company’s policies because it is the right thing to do falls into Kant’s theory. Here, the theory is measured by the “rightness” of rules, rather than by consequences of them (Mujtaba, 1997). ” Managers are usually the first responders to monitoring an employee.

This is concern as far as time management, just one more task to add to the number crunching, the bottom line concerns, and personnel issues. Yet management would also be subject to such monitoring. Employers have been known to use other such security monitoring devices as finger prints, retinal scans, and even most recently (in February 2006) implanting computer chips in employees’ arms. In most cases, employers are allowed to monitor you however they wish, especially if you choose to work in a high-security occupation where high-tech security measures are necessary.

Requiring an employee to place a computer chip in his/her arm, however, may be going too far; but such a technique is a recent development, and the courts have not ruled on the matter one way or the other. The article below is an example of how far management is willing to go. “Tiny silicon chips were embedded into two workers who volunteered to help test the tagging technology at a surveillance equipment company, an official said Monday. The Mexico attorney general’s office implanted the so-called RFIDs — for radio frequency identification chips — in some employees in 2004 to restrict access to secure areas.

Implanting them in the workers at CityWatcher. com is believed to be the first use of the technology in living humans in the United States. Sean Darks, chief executive of the company, also had one of the chips embedded. “I have one,” he said. “I’m not going to ask somebody to do something I wouldn’t do myself. None of my employees are forced to get the chip to keep their job. ” (Associated Press, 2006) In weighing both the advantages and disadvantages of employee monitoring, a few recommendations are appropriate as a starting place.

There are several measures that have been suggested (for employees and employers) that both prevent and deter losses and the negative implications of employee monitoring. Business leaders can and should encourage ethical decision-making by having a written code of ethics and providing ethics training, such as discussions of ethical scenarios, to help employees understand what is expected. In addition, businesses should consider providing practical support to employees for handling ethical issues when it comes to the use of company properties such as computers, fax machines, e-mail, etc.

Company property, which is essential in accomplishing job duties, is expensive and may be difficult to replace. When using company property, employees should exercise care, perform required maintenance, and follow all operating instructions, safety standards, and guidelines. Prompt reporting of damages, defects, and the need for repairs could prevent deterioration of equipment and possible injury to employees. Leaders should lead by example and employees should realize that any losses can affect their job security and way of living.


Associated Press. (2006, February 13). Company Implants ID Chips Into Employees’ Arms. Retrieved March 13, 2011, from Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,184722,00.html?sPage=technology.foxnews/cybersecurity Holmes v. Petrovich Development Company, LLC, C059133 (IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA January 13, 2011).

Cite this The Legal, Ethical and Managerial Concerns of Employee Monitoring

The Legal, Ethical and Managerial Concerns of Employee Monitoring. (2017, Mar 20). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-legal-ethical-and-managerial-concerns-of-employee-monitoring/

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