Workplace Privacy in Recent Years Term Paper

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This even happened in Athens in 1993 when its municipal government imposed conditions of a cholesterol check. They sought to accept only those employees having acceptable level of cholesterol. Employers later had to abandon this policy due to public hue and cry but it shows how far employers can go in imposing medical conditions on employees.

Drug testing is a common practice in a number of organizations as its harmful effects on employee performance have been proved many a times. Employees working under the influence of drugs do not act and perform like normal employees. Not only is drug abuse bad for employees' own performance but it also affects the organizational work environment.

Drug testing is something that is acceptable to both employees and employers but the case of alcohol is different. There are many who drink socially and attend offices as well. Employees can impose restriction on dirking within office premises or during duty hours but they cannot go so far to impose restriction on employees' drinking off duty hours. "In Indiana, an employee was terminated when he volunteered that he occasionally drank socially in his off hours, a violation of company policy. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that the firm could not demonstrate that his drinking had a negative impact on his work performance or there was just cause for termination. The court indicated that employers may regulate a worker's conduct on the job, but 'the same interest does not always exist in regulating the employee's off-duty conduct.' While the court ruled in the worker's favor, the language was vague and does not preclude the possibility that this policy might be valid under different circumstances" (Losey, 1994).

In dealing with medical problems technology can play a crucial role. Today computer is capable of detecting impairment of any kind with the help of performance or impairment test. Through these tests employers can judge by monitoring a person's ability to manipulate a cursor on a visual display terminal (VDT) screen. Now employers do not have to make their employees undertake typical medical tests. They can use technology to detect problems. Such performance tests do not blatantly invade the privacy of employees like conventional methods. This however, is only one aspect of technology in case of a medical or drug problem. Other technological advances however can be very intrusive and could even be counter productive.


In most of the states courts are not giving any adverse remarks on corporations within the United States charged with spying. Some companies inform their employees that they are being monitored but these are few are far between. Only two states within United States ask employers to inform employees that they are being monitored. Courts are in favor of searches but they should define some limit for these searches and spying. "The issue of employee claims of privacy for personal space was addressed by the Supreme Court in O'Conner v. Ortega. The court said that while the Fourth Amendment could extend to workplaces, and privacy interests might be asserted in workplace environments, the interests of the employee could be balanced against those of the employer. A balancing of interests allows the employer to initiate investigations and to conduct searches of employee effects upon the premises of the employer. The court made clear that the Fourth Amendment protection was a prohibition on unreasonable searches, but an employer could define the conditions to allow most searches to be reasonable" (Cozzetto & Pedeliski, 1997).

Pros & Cons of Electronic Monitoring

Some monitoring is really beneficial for both employer and employee from performance evaluation point-of-view. Mostly electronic monitoring is done to portray a true picture of performance of the employee. In case of electronic monitoring objectivity remains intact while the subjectivity or managers feelings are not considered important. Electronic monitoring also helps in conveying the feedback to employee with respect to his performance. So, employees can see objectively whether they are meeting the standards or not. Wherever computer-based feedback systems are present they have helped organizational efficiency and are considered beneficial to both employer and the employee. However, some also object to computer monitoring and say that it could also hurt the privacy of individuals. "Monitoring is intrusive and the potential for abuse exists. For example, computer data banks, telephone and video monitoring, active badges, and other monitoring techniques make the private lives of workers easier to delve into without detection. Data concerning employees' security clearance, computer applications preferred, right/left handedness, and "even how the user takes his coffee" can be maintained - which go beyond how an employee is performing on the job (Levy, 1993, p. 3). How information gathered on employees will be used and who has access to it are questions at the center of the debate" (Crampton & Mishra, 1998).

The private and confidential information should be protected otherwise they could be used or abused by any other person. Even companies can use this information against certain employees who raise their voices against some unfavorable company policy or who blow the whistle or even company unions.

Some also argue that electronic monitoring could also create extra pressure on employees regarding their performance. If imposed excessively then electronic monitoring could also prove to be counter productive. The purpose of HR policies is to remove stress from work while extra pressures in the form of constant monitoring can make job stressful. Other than stress myriad other problems like heavy workload, repetitive tasks, social isolation, fear of job loss, and a lack of job involvement could also affect the work life of and performance of employee. Also psychological and physical impact of stress can also not be ignored. Medical researches show that work related stress could seriously affect the health of employees. Problems of pain, stiffness, headaches, depression, fatigue and exhaustion are common among employees if they face stressful job conditions. If medical conditions persist with employees then they can also become a burden for employer in the form of medical bills.

Turnover and absenteeism are also important issues in human resource and public administration realm. Job stress or job dissatisfaction can also be a prime cause of turnover. If too many controls and too much stress is placed on employees then naturally they will become disenchanted with their current jobs and would look for better opportunities else meanwhile affecting the organizational efficiency.

Solution for the Problem:

Some of the key solutions for the issue of work place privacy are:

Consideration of Human Elements:

Electronic monitoring generally ignores the humane element of work life. The human aspects of management were already inculcated in the management philosophy during the early years of evolution of management. That is why too much involvement of mechanics and electronic monitoring defies the basics of management. Employers view electronic monitoring as an efficient management tool. It helps managers in performance appraisals, determining raises and promotions, evaluating training effectiveness, or for deciding disciplinary actions. It definitely helps in maintaining productivity and better customer services but they must not ignore human aspects while implementing electronic monitoring policies. Such monitoring should be subtle rather than in your face that employee would even fear taking a long bathroom break thinking that it might be caught by the computer.

Training and Informing:

Training about Internet etiquettes is far effective way as compared to using programs and technologies to intrude into employees' privacy. This way employee would get to know that they have certain obligations towards companies they work for. They will be warned and would later become cautious with regard to their Internet activities within office hours. Employees will also have a better morale that company instead of prying on them is trying to talk to them. The atmosphere of trust will be created which is the most essential ingredient of successful HR policy. HR policies should make employees feel that they are part of the big picture. Too much prying and snooping would make employees doubtful of their status within organization. The work in such a restrictive situation becomes duty rather than passion.

Balanced Policies:

Human resource and public administration policy makers should carry out a complete cost and benefit analysis. They must be completely biased and selfish in implementing employee monitoring policies. They have to create a balance between organizational benefits and employee concerns. Most of the monitoring activities offer potential benefits from an employer exclusive perspective. However, employee cannot be disregarded as a mere pawn in the whole game. Employees also have a human side to them. They definitely are obliged to the organization with respect to their duties but they also have their human weakness. The come to work in offices but they cannot completely leave their personal lives behind. Similarly they also sometimes take work or work stress home but work cannot completely overtake or hijack their personal lives. Employers should have the consideration of employee privacy. Similarly, employees should also consider that in order to protect their business interests, employers will exercise some controls. The…

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