More than 75 percent of employers monitor employee internet use, while 67 percent block access to certain websites, the American Management Association found in a survey.
There are several reasons why companies monitor their employees’ email, phone and internet use. Excess time spent on personal projects decreases productivity and customer service quality. Also, employees could leak confidential information that puts the company at risk. As a manager, you should ask yourself, “Is this monitoring legal?”
Here’s the deal: According to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), you are authorized to monitor information that passes over company property like servers, networks and phone lines as long as it pertains to business use. To ensure that your monitoring practices are legal, follow these steps:
- Notify Employees. Be transparent about monitoring. You can circulate a memo or email, include it in handbooks or put a sticker on employee computers. Some 80 percent of employers already do this, the AMA found. If you haven’t notified your employees, do so immediately.
- Provide Documentation. Post the ECPA rules so employees know you’re following them. Find the policy at cpsr.org/issues/privacy/ecpa86 and look for new bills at http://thomas.loc.gov.
Your government agency or call center may be monitoring calls for “quality assurance or training purposes,” as the recording says. But you’ll encounter callers who don’t want their call recorded for privacy reasons. What can you do if you encounter such resistance?
First, you must check your agency’s policies regarding callers who request that you not record the conversation. These policies will most likely dictate what you can do in general. Here are some more specific options:
- Explain to the customer the upside of recording the call, such as recording the call ensures accuracy and you can check the tape if a question arises about the customer’s inquiry.
- Transfer the call to a phone line that isn’t connected to recording equipment.
Bottom line: Don’t record the conversation against the customer’s wishes. This could be illegal.
More companies are taking up corporate blogging as a marketing and networking technique. If you’re involved in a blogging project, propose a formal policy — it may save your company from legal trouble.
Businesses are realizing how valuable the Internet is as an advertising and communication tool. But there are risks, and you should protect your company’s venture into cyberspace with a formal blogging policy that touches on these important topics:
- Personal responsibility. You should state that any employees who participate in corporate blogging are ultimately responsible for their language and opinions. “Let employees know that while the company supports shared speech and the dissemination of ideas, individual bloggers can be held personally liable for comments that are deemed to be defamatory or libelous … or which violate harassment and discrimination policies or laws,” says Maria Greco Danaher, Chair of the Employment and Labor Law Group for Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, PC. You may even want to require employees to include a disclaimer stating that their opinions don’t reflect the opinions of the company, she suggests.
- Company information and privacy. The release of proprietary information is often the cause of legal disputes. Instruct employees that they should be certain any company information they reveal is safe for public knowledge. Designate a contact person within the company to whom employees can turn if they have a question regarding blog content, Danaher urges.
- Editorial boundaries. The grey area for blogging is the line between editorial freedom and policy violations. The company does have the right to censor blogs for language and discriminatory language because the blog is company property, she confirms. But to support this kind of open media is also to concede that there may be some negative feedback from the public. Think of it as an opportunity to address public concerns.