Computers, e-mail, voice mail, cell phones, instant messaging, and the Internet all have brought a new age of ease and efficiency to workplace tasks. But, along with those advantages comes a dizzying array of workplace and liability issues that seems to grow almost daily.
Monitoring employees technology use and abuse
One important issue that HR must be involved with regarding computers is monitoring employees’ use, and abuse, of company computer and phone systems. Many employers now implement some type of employee monitoring. Employers walk a fine line, however, when it comes to monitoring employees, and often it’s up to HR to make sure that the line is not crossed.
Document retention in the electronic age
Not so long ago, document retention meant maintaining the proper printed materials that might be needed in case of a lawsuit or charge filed with a government agency. Today, businesses have to worry about not only paper documents, but electronic ones as well. Those electronic documents may also be residing in places you might not think about, such as hand-held digital devices.
The Internet has made it even easier to find information on just about everything, including job candidates and current workers. The problem is that you may find information that you didn’t want to see, like pictures from their spring break. There is also the possibility that the information isn’t accurate – maybe friends or enemies have doctored photos or made exaggerations and lies as a joke. Or the John Smith you found isn’t the same John Smith who applied for a job at your company.
Basic Training for Supervisors – easy-to-read training guides, including electronic issues in the workplace
Cell phones, cars, and work – a dangerous mix
Cell phones allow many employees to work from practically anywhere. But when they mix cell phones and driving while working, it can create safety issues and expensive liability for the employer if there is an accident.
Employee privacy and employer trade secrets
On the one hand, failing to monitor employees’ use of workplace technology may subject an employer to trade secret theft, or lead to claims for discrimination, defamation, or copyright infringement, to name just a few.
On the other hand, monitoring employees’ telephone calls, e-mail, or voice mail may leave an employer vulnerable to claims of infringing on employees’ privacy. To decrease the chances of damaging and expensive litigation, it is well worth your time and effort to become familiar with the potential legal issues in this area and to develop a well-thought-out employee monitoring policy.
Audit your company’s Internet and e-mail policies with the Employment Practices Self-Audit Workbook