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Legal and Ethical Considerations of Employee Monitoring

Essay by   •  June 30, 2013  •  Research Paper  •  1,039 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,485 Views

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In today's electronic age, many employers are faced daunting task of making a legal call when determining if monitoring employee behavior is appropriate at all times. In essence, "Little Brother" is always watching. According to Schulman (2013), Little Brother represents the tremendous capabilities technology as provided for employers to keep track of what their work force is up to. Several programs are available that search e-mails, as well as software to block objectionable websites. The most brazen of manager and supervisors can simply go enter your hard drive and review one's cookies and history, as well as access any employee's company e-mail. As much as an employee deletes his/her history, or sends unwanted emails to the recycle bin, much of this information still exists on the company server, and many corporations are willing to pay computer consultants to unearth any desired information.

When it comes to e-mails, a survey completed by the Society of Human Resource Management found that of the companies surveyed, over 36 percent searched employee messages.

What is Employee Monitoring?

The U.S. Office of Technology Assessment defines computerized performance monitoring as "the computerized collection, storage, analysis, and reporting of information about employees' productive activities" (Yerby, 2013; Peters, 2009). Unfortunately there is a muddied area when it comes to this matter because current laws state that monitoring is legal, however the question of whether this practice is effective or ethically sound is constantly raised. Some believe that when the focus begins to narrows to micromanaging employees, the firm cannot effectively run a competitive business, therefore employees accountability and transparency is pushed in many work environments, However many employers view this situation quite differently. Many employers feel that sensitive company information might be at risk from the abuse of the fairly new, yet constantly progressing medium. Today, nearly 70 percent of workers have access to a computer, with approximate 85% having internet access. With computers being so readily available to such a wide variety of workers with a diverse sense of work ethics, knowledge and varying intentions, employers feel forced to monitor the activities of their employees. As email and the internet have become a major part of most workers' routine, many are using business resources for personal tasks. Therefore employee monitoring in many cases is there to protect the business from legal liability, as well as to produce a more efficient employee.

There are numerous software and hardware solutions available to monitor different activities, and the price of monitoring or surveillance software ranges from free to several thousand dollars. Many packages and monitor several items such as:

* Keystrokes typed

* Application and website usage

* Detailed file usage,

* Incoming and outgoing chats and emails

* Internet connections

* Windows interacted with

* Internet packet data

* Desktop screenshots, and

* Software installations (Yerby, 2013).

It is important to also note that many employers also use telephone and video monitoring as well.

When it comes to monitoring employees, there are several questions that need to be answered: What should they be restricted to monitoring? Should

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