What Are Your Employee’s Privacy Rights As They Work From Home?

Remote worker working at his desk on the computer privacy rights

Ever since the CDC’s recommendation for people to socially distance during the COVID-19 health crisis, companies have started enforcing work-from-home orders. Some of the biggest concerns with employees are communication and productivity becoming completely virtual and how employees will behave under surveillance. Monitoring productivity is critical for business success, especially during these trying times. Businesses must understand employee privacy rights as they observe their performance. 

Agenda Discovery’s legislative tracking software has picked up several regulations relating to work-from-home privacy. Read the article below and see which regulations can be impacting your business.

Table of Contents

Are Vaccine Requirements Before Returning to Work Legal?

As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more readily available to people, some employers are considering requiring their workforce to be fully vaccinated before returning to work. Many employers will have a strong case, as long as their policies have certain exceptions, are job-related, and are consistent with business necessities. However, there are not any local municipality requirements that mandate employees receive the vaccine before they return to in-person work.

While local government agencies may draft laws and ordinances requiring employees to do so, they can still be overruled by state and federal laws. Additionally, employers must be aware of laws impacting mandatory vaccination policies, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

According to the MRSC, “the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) primarily comes into play with respect to: (1) an employer’s pre-screening questions asked prior to administering a vaccine, which may elicit information about a disability; (2) ADA-covered disability reasons that may prevent a person from receiving a vaccine; and (3) providing a reasonable accommodation for employees with ADA-covered disabilities that prevent them from taking a vaccine.”

Furthermore, some people may not be able to get the vaccine because it goes against their personal religious beliefs. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers must provide religious accommodation if it does not pose a burden on the business.

 

Social Media Password Protection Laws Are Designed to Protect Privacy Rights

There are over 25 states that have enacted laws prohibiting businesses from requesting credentials to an employee’s social media accounts. While using software such as spyware or keylogging is not against these privacy rights, employers must consider the legal ramifications. Moreover, accessing social media communications or other personal accounts may go against the Stored Communications Act.

 

Stored Communications Act and its Relation to Privacy Rights

Enacted in 1986, the bill was designed to protect people and the information that their employers obtained from their surveillance. The Stored Communications Act allows employers to monitor communication as long as there is a legitimate reason for doing so. Additionally, the employer must have the consent of their employees to monitor them. This will ensure everyone is legally aware of the company’s surveillance. 

However, being that this bill was enacted in 1986, lawmakers could not have predicted the surveillance innovations that would arrive. Technology, such as keystroke logging and other surveillance software, was not considered when developing this bill. As a result, many state government agencies have expanded on their own privacy protections.

 

The California Consumer Protection Act’s Impact on Employee Privacy Rights

As of January 1st, 2020, the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA), applies to the collection of personal employee information. This bill requires employers to provide a notice to employees that they will be collecting information. This includes describing the categories of personal information that will be collected and the reason why it is needed. Additionally, businesses must be sure their surveillance activity is highlighted in these notices for employees who live in California. 

 

Potentially Applicable Laws That Support Employee Privacy Rights

According to Forbes, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) may be applicable in employee surveillance. The NLRA protects the employee’s right to collectively bargain. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently concluded that surveillance of employees cannot affect this aspect of the regulation. 

Another law that is secured from employer surveillance is attorney-client privilege. While each case will come down to specific details and jurisdictions, privacy rights will be of main concern. If an employee uses their own laptop while working from home, then they’ll likely be protected from employer monitoring. Comparatively, if the employee were to engage with an attorney through their work email, the law is less likely to apply. 

 

Stay Current on Developing Privacy Laws

In today’s technological world, businesses seemingly have hundreds of options in monitoring their employees’ productivity. The need for this technology has only grown due to many companies still enforcing a work-from-home policy. To protect your business from potential legal hardship, it’s important to stay on top of laws regarding employee surveillance. 

By investing in Agenda Discovery’s legislative tracking software you can monitor local government agendas that matter to your business. At our core, we make local government more transparent. Our automated search process alerts you of developing laws that may impact your operations. Contact us today to schedule a demo and learn why we’re the legislative tracking software of choice. 

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