Workplace Privacy Attorneys in Temecula, California
During the height of the pandemic, many employers allowed their employees to continue their duties at home by working virtually, which included attending video meetings on platforms such as Zoom and completing their job duties using other web platforms.
As a result, employees enjoyed an umbrella of privacy that might not be available in an office setting or a business enterprise like a retail outlet. After all, no one can walk up and check on your activities when you’re working at home. Everything is online, which an employee can control more easily than in a physical work environment.
Now that pandemic restrictions are being lifted, workers are being required to return to their workplaces, at least for part of the week if not all of it. Still, the protections and freedom afforded from working at home linger in employees’ minds.
As a result, many are resisting the call of the office and will only take jobs that are totally or mostly home-based. And, when in the office, the phenomenon of “quiet quitting” has emerged. Quiet quitting equates to a worker doing as little as possible while not drawing suspicion, often just communicating with friends on their smartphone while work beckons. Punch in, punch out, and go home.
Privacy is something Americans prize and cherish, but once you enter a work environment, many of your rights to privacy are subject to employer surveillance, if not outright control. This is especially true if you use your employer’s resources such as email, web access, and even company-provided cell or office phone services. For the most part, employers can monitor what you do on the equipment and resources they provide.
If you as an employee feel your privacy rights are being violated at work in or around Temecula, California, or if you as an employer feel your workers are challenging or abusing your right to monitor their activities at work or are even accusing you of invasion of privacy, contact the Law Offices of Charles P. Boylston. We are knowledgeable in all aspects of federal and state workplace privacy laws, and we’re prepared to assess your situation and advise you on your legal options going forward.
We proudly serve both employees and employers throughout Southern California, including San Diego County, Riverside County, Orange County, and Los Angeles County.
Overview of Workplace Privacy
It’s important to know what your rights are, both as an employee and as an employer, as this information can help you know whether you are being taken advantage of in the workplace.
Employers enjoy great latitude in surveilling employees’ conduct at work, especially when the employees are using company resources such as email, Internet, and phones, whether cellular, landline or voice over Internet protocol (VOIP).
In California, the Attorney General’s website is quite explicit in the rights of employers, stating: “Your employer is generally allowed to monitor your workplace communications, such as business phone calls and computer usage, and to access to your voicemail and e-mail.”
Some federal laws, however, protect the use of certain information in making employment decisions. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects job applicants and employees from having their physical or mental conditions affect employment decisions.
In a similar vein, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) protects an employee’s right to protections when it comes to genetic information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) safeguards any medical information that an employer may obtain in the course of your employment.
Lifestyle Discrimination Statutes
In California, lifestyle discrimination is also illegal. Employers will often try to pry into the habits of employees, such as smoking or drug use, in order to control health insurance costs. California, Colorado, New York, and North Dakota, however, all have statutes that offer protections against lifestyle surveillance and discrimination by employers.
Background checks of job applicants and employees in California are permitted in a variety of areas, including criminal and civil court background checks, employment verification, education verification, driving record checks, and drug screening.
However, these laws do not shield employees from routine monitoring of conversations and actions taken on the job. Generally speaking, an employer cannot single out your individual workstation with a listening device to record all your conversations, but anything done via email, text or phone on company equipment is open to their access.
Invasions of Privacy at Work
Though an employer has broad discretion in monitoring employees, some practices can go too far, especially if they are not detailed in an employee handbook or other communication such as a policy statement. For instance, if the employer suddenly starts searching private lockers in a breakroom or even searches through purses or personal belongings without a clear policy addressing that possibility, employees can have a reasonable case for invasion of privacy.
Also, if employers use deceit or ruses to obtain private information, that can also be a cause for potential legal action. For instance, if an employer schedules an annual physical exam for all employees but fails to notify them that they will be tested for drug usage, and an employee is terminated when drugs are found in their r blood, that can become a reasonable basis for legal action as well.
Video surveillance is also a point of contention. Video surveillance of the premises for security purposes is certainly permissible, but when the surveillance invades people’s privacy, that can morph into another issue altogether, for instance, by installing cameras in restrooms or nursing areas.
Workplace Privacy Attorneys in Temecula, California
Whether you have concerns about privacy issues at work as an employee who may feel your rights are being violated, or you are an employer who feels unjustly accused of privacy violations, contact us at the Law Offices of Charles P. Boylston. We are dedicated to investigating workplace privacy issues and disputes and finding the proper solution so everyone involved can move forward. Reach out immediately wherever you are in the Southern California. From our office in Temecula, we serve clients in San Diego County, Riverside County, Orange County, and Los Angeles County.