Is your boss spying on you at and off work?

How much privacy can be expected at work wherein everyday we are using our employer’s computers and equipment?  Employers want to make sure that they are receiving their return on investments when collecting basic information about their employees pay, attendance or benefits, and they want to be able to ensure that work is being done efficiently and safely.  Though, it is normal to give up some privacy while working for someone else, how far can employer’s watchful eye go and do employers have right to spy on workers?

Toronto Employment Lawyer, Daniel Lublin explains in his latest Globe and Mail article that generally, it is not illegal in Canada to hire a private investigator to spy on an employee who says he or she is too sick to work.  Especially if it is found that the same employee is performing physical tasks that they say they cannot perform while at work.

Most often if there is a problem with theft or security, employers will install security cameras focused on a specific location; which is not illegal.  They have the right to monitor their staff in some situations, but only if this is done in good faith and where there is a reasonable belief that an offence is being committed.  However, if there is no good reason for a camera and it is being installed without employees’ knowledge, the best first step would be to consult with an employment lawyer to discuss the employer’s new policy and see what options one might have.

Employers often monitor employees’ workplace computers, their e-mails and their Internet usage to ensure the devices are not being misused.  New fingerprinting technology is enabling employers to use more sophisticated machines and scan employees’ fingerprints in order to monitor their absence during the work day.  Due to the absence of stronger privacy laws there is no easy way to prevent the employer from installing those machines.

As part of the hiring process, job candidates’ public online profiles are often reviewed by employers and recruiters.  Provided that hiring decisions are made on the basis of legitimate job qualifications that are thereby revealed and not on any human rights grounds, there is currently nothing illegal about this practice, although some may view it immoral.

But whether or not privacy is protected by law or contract, respecting privacy in the workplace makes good business sense.

Daniel Lublin’s article and some more information about privacy law can be found in his Globe and Mail column.