Employee Monitoring and Ethics: Can They Co-Exist?

Employee Monitoring and Ethics: Can They Co-Exist?

Angelina I. T. Kiser (University of the Incarnate Word, USA), Timothy Porter (University of the Incarnate Word, USA) and David Vequist (University of the Incarnate Word, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0903-7.ch019
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Abstract

More advanced technologies that make it possible to monitor employees in the workplace have led to controversies on both legal and ethical grounds. Employers can now easily monitor emails, Internet usage and sites visited, and keystrokes, as well as use GPS systems to track employees’ movements throughout the day. At one end of the spectrum is the employer who claims that monitoring not only improves productivity but is a legal necessity that assists in keeping the company from becoming legally liable for employees’ misuse of technology. Employees, on the other hand, want their privacy protected, and many believe that it is more a matter of them not being trusted. In this paper, an examination is presented that describes various forms of workplace surveillance and monitoring, viewpoints of both employers and employees, policies that companies have implemented, and the ethical and legal implications of such policies.
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Employee Concerns

People have an expectation of privacy, and they value that privacy in their personal lives. However, how much privacy should a person expect to have within the employment context? How invasive should an organization be in monitoring its employees? It appears that technology has outpaced the once traditional expectations of privacy. In the past, employees saw the manager watching them, or they were well aware of video and phone surveillance. Today, employees are “watched” through their use of their work computers via email and Internet usage. Companies can monitor what employees are doing during the entire workday with at least 40 million U.S. workers being subject to electronic monitoring (Alder & Ambrose, 2005).

In a study conducted by Hoffman, Hartman, and Rowe (2003), they cite several reasons for limiting employee monitoring:

  • Monitoring may create a suspicious and hostile work environment.

  • The lack of privacy may constrain work flow.

  • It may be important for employees to conduct some personal business from the workplace.

  • Workplace stress and press are increased.

  • Freedom of expression and autonomy are hindered.

  • Monitoring is intrusive upon one’s right to privacy of thought.

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