What Privacy Rights Do Employees Have?

Employees in California enjoy some of the strongest privacy protections in the United States. The California Constitution guarantees all state residents the right to “pursue and obtain” privacy within the workplace balanced by the employers’ rights to monitor business operations.

Technology Privacy Rights

Technology raises complicated privacy issues in the workplace. Generally, your employer does have the right to monitor your communications such as:

  • Business telephone calls
  • Voicemail messages
  • E-mail
  • Internet

Telephone Call Privacy

California’s Privacy Act requires that an employer inform the employee of telephone conversation recording or monitoring. Not all businesses follow this requirement however. A recording without your knowledge and consent is punishable by the California Penal Code section 631 and you should speak with a Los Angeles employment attorney to discuss your legal options.

Voice Mail Privacy

Although an employer cannot intercept an employee’s voice mail, he or she can access voice mail messages that are in “electronic storage” on the company system.

E-Mail Privacy

Most employees using company computers do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Employers have the right to search, monitor and view employee e-mails stored in a company e-mail system, providing there is a valid business purpose for doing so. It is important to follow your company policies regarding e-mail usage. It is common for an employee to receive disciplinary action or termination for disregard of company policy. Wrongful termination trials often use e-mails against a terminated employee as evidence of employee misconduct or wrongdoing.

Internet Privacy

Employers do have the right to track employee-visited web sites on company computers, block employees from visiting specific websites and limit the amount of time an employee can spend on a specific website.

Videotape Privacy

California Labor Code section 435 prohibits all public and private employers, with the exception of the federal government, from videotaping or recording employees in the following locations unless authorized by a court order:

  • Restroom
  • Locker room
  • Room designated for changing clothes

Employees have general and specific rights to privacy under California law. To help you determine what is and what is not private in the workplace; contact a qualified Los Angeles employment lawyer.

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