Workplace Communication Surveillance
Because companies in certain industries (particularly finance, insurance, law, and healthcare just to name a few) are subject to strict regulations, they are required to monitor and record many employee communications with clients and other external figures.
These regulations are in place to protect clients, consumers, and investors against wrongdoing as well as to enable companies to defend themselves in case of lawsuits or accusations. Despite the importance of the need to surveil employee communication, the process does bump up against privacy concerns. Employees have the right to know that their activities are being monitored, and safeguards must be put in place to ensure that only work-related conversations are recorded and saved while private communications are left alone.
What Types of Communications are Monitored?
The two main types of communication that can be monitored in the workplace are phone calls, including voicemails, and email and other messaging communications.
Phone Calls and Voicemail
In the United States, companies are allowed to legally listen to and record phone calls if it is part of the ordinary course of their business. This means that companies can monitor calls for quality control, to protect trade secrets, and to comply with regulations. Different states have their own rules regarding whether or not all parties to the call need to be told that a call is being recorded.
The federal Wiretap Act, however, does prohibit the monitoring of personal phone calls. Things become more complicated when employees are using company devices for personal calls or personal devices for work calls. In most cases, there is likely more legal leeway for a company to monitor all activity on a business-owned device than there is for the company to record calls on a personal smartphone.
Email, Text, and Messaging Apps
The increased use of email, text and third-party messaging apps has complicated companies’ ability to effectively monitor work-related conversations. While some companies try to prohibit the use of certain apps in efforts to keep all work-related communications in-house, it’s an almost impossible task in reality.
Companies have to find the balance between making sure they comply with what is legally required of them, while also not breaching the privacy of their employees. For example, while it is legitimate for companies to monitor emails sent and received using a company email address, they do not necessarily have the right to surveil an employee’s personal web-based email account that they may access from a company-owned laptop.
Workplace Communication Surveillance Policy
It is important for companies to create a written policy that clearly lays out exactly what types of communications will be monitored and why. Employees should also be given a contact person who they can go to with questions or concerns about the policy and how it is implemented.
Key elements that should be included in the policy include:
- A list of each and every type of communication that is governed by the policy and will be monitored.
- A clear statement that any computers, phone systems, and other equipment issued by the company are the property of the employer and that there is no expectation of privacy when using them.
- Guidelines for the use of personal devices and how business-related conversations using such devices will be monitored.
- Prohibitions against sharing of confidential information.
- Disciplinary actions that will take place if the policy is breached.
All employees and new hires should be given the opportunity to read the policy and ask questions and then be required to sign it and abide by it.
Get a demo of LeapXpert’s platform to learn how to make it easy to capture and archive all business-related communications while still maintaining employee privacy.