Home Workplace Management What Your Employee Privacy Rights in the Workplace Are

What Your Employee Privacy Rights in the Workplace Are

by Jackson B

Whether you are a small business owner or an employee in a large corporation, you have your own set of employee privacy rights in the workplace. These rights include not sharing work information, not discussing work with co-workers, and not spending time at your workstation during non-office hours. Additionally, an employee is prohibited from discussing anything about his or her employer on work-related blogs, websites, and other non-work related social media.

These rights are especially important if you are working in a small company where the majority of employees work remotely. You may find yourself in a situation where you need to discuss work matters with another employee in another office, even if that other employee is located hundreds or thousands of miles away. For this reason, many small businesses are now taking advantage of what technology has to offer in the form of online chat programs, instant messaging, and social networking sites that allow employees to stay in touch while they work from the comfort of their home. However, while these online programs may be convenient, they may not always protect your privacy expectations.

One of the biggest problems you may encounter when discussing employee privacy rights in the workplace is asking a co-worker about a work issue while talking on your cell phone. In many cases, you may feel compelled to ask because of the amount of time you both may be spending on the phone. If you are unable to completely block out the sounds of your cell phone, however, you may be violating the law. This is particularly true if you are required to be available at work in order to respond to work-related emails or faxes.

There are also times when you simply cannot be sure that your co-worker has the right to speak with you on the job. Maybe the person is upset about something and is discussing it with you. If you are not in a private area of the company (such as a break room) when the conversation occurs, you could violate the employee’s right to privacy. You should keep your personal conversations within the confines of your private work area, even if you are required to use company resources (such as conference rooms or computer stations).

It may also be tempting to simply ignore the co-worker’s discussions. However, ignoring what another person says (even if you think that they have a right to be upset) may have consequences for you down the line. Your actions could mean that you violate the rights of the employee and your employer (or their employer’s employer) in the future.

Another problem that can arise when discussing employee privacy rights in the workplace relates to questions of sexual harassment. If the subject matter of the discussion involves gender, you may be asked not to attend any such discussions. Also, if you make statements that are offensive to anyone, you may face repercussions. For example, if a boss asks you to not attend any meetings dealing with sexual harassment, you may be forced to resign. Similarly, you may be fired for remarks that you made during a meeting that was not even your own opinion.

As a result of these potential problems, many employers have adopted strict rules against sexual harassment. These rules may not be legally enforceable in every situation. For example, an employer may not ask a male employee to move from his own desk to accommodate a female co-worker who has been invited to take a tour of the office. This is legal in some states but illegal in most. It is also possible to be fired for making jokes about someone’s physical appearance, or commenting on a co-worker’s outfit.

These are just some of the issues that surround employee privacy rights in the workplace. While the rights do exist and must be protected, you may not want to spend too much time defending them. Instead, focus on implementing strong protections for your own well-being. After all, you will want to feel confident that your work-related health and well-being are protected and not harmed by the workplace environment you work in.

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