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Employee Privacy FAQ: Key Questions

Can employers monitor employees’ telephone calls?
For business calls, the answer is generally yes. Businesses may not monitor personal calls, but you can tell employees not to make personal calls from specified business phones which may be monitored. Notify employees of the company’s policy in employee handbooks or anywhere company policies are explained.

Can employers record employees’ telephone calls?
Monitoring a call is legally distinct from recording it. Audio recordings are subject to wire-tapping laws and restrictions, which vary from state to state. Variously, depending on where you operate, you might be required to disclose that the call is being recorded or even to solicit permission to do so.

Can employers monitor employee email?
If the company uses proprietary email (i.e.,, the company owns it and can monitor it. Similarly, email messages sent through another email service (like Gmail) for work purposes that go through employer-owned equipment can also be monitored. Avoid monitoring the employee’s personal email accounts.

Can employers monitor employee snail mail?
Yes, employers can even open postal mail addressed to employees at their workplace. The USPS Domestic Mail Manual says, “All mail addressed to … an individual by name or title at the address of the organization is delivered to the organization” (emphasis ours; from Chapter 508, Section 1.5.1).

Can employers monitor internal messaging systems?
Messaging and chat platforms like Slack give employees instant access to each other and have become commonplace. The same basic guidelines as email apply; employers can monitor any company-owner communication channel, but you should inform employees that their usage of the platform may be monitored.

Can employers monitor employer-owned computer and mobile device usage?
Yes, employers can monitor almost any aspect of the employee’s company-owned device usage, and employers can install tracking software that monitors websites visited, computer idle time, keystrokes, and more. Be careful, however, if employees utilize the company’s device for their personal information as well. You may wish to specify company-owned devices may not be used for personal purposes.

Can employers monitor employee-owned devices?
Case law is much less established around “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) practices. Consult with your legal advisors to determine what information belongs to whom on employee-owned devices and under what circumstances the device may be accessed and monitored.

Can employers track employee biometric information?
Using biometric data about employees – like fingerprints, facial recognition technology, even iris scans or voice prints – can help to authenticate identity. Only three states have laws on the books regarding biometrics, and only Texas and Washington require both some type of notice and voluntary consent for this data to be collected.


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