Can Your Employer Use Surveillance Outside of Work?

Even when you are off the clock, your employer can still use surveillance on you.

Even when you are off the clock, your employer can still use surveillance on you.

You may try to push aside all thoughts of your job when you walk out the door at the end of the day, but your employer may not have stopped thinking about you. Audio and video surveillance cannot be used once you leave the building, but companies have other ways to track what you do if they think your actions can be damaging to them.

Benefits Fraud

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you are entitled to take unpaid leave for family issues or for your personal health. Unfortunately, some employees abuse this right, even working at another job during the leave period. An employer who believes an employee is abusing leave can use surveillance outside of the workplace to confirm or disprove those suspicions.

Employer-Owned Devices

You may want to think twice before sending a text or searching the web on a company-owned cell phone. Your employer can monitor your company cell phone if there is a legitimate reason that can impact business. The same rules go for your company-owned computer or tablet and email account. Since many companies do allow for, and even expect, some level of personal use of company-provided devices and accounts, check your employer's policies for what you can and can't do.

Social Media

When posting to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, keep in mind that your employer may be watching. Your employer can discipline you -- and even fire you -- if your posts are damaging to his business in some way. The good news is that many states do not allow companies to discipline you for posts that are not work-related, says Aditi Mukherji in a May 2013 FindLaw blog.

Company Events

Company picnics and holiday parties may seem like a great time to let go with co-workers, but don't mistake this fun time for being outside of work. Even if the alcohol is flowing, these are company-sponsored events, and what you do may be noticed and acted upon by your employer. The same goes for work-related conferences and business trips. You are at these events as a company employee, so remember to act accordingly.

Drug Testing

Although most illicit drug use is likely to occur when an employee is not at work, employers can still require drug tests. According to a 2011 Society for Human Resource Management poll, more than 57 percent of United States companies require drug testing as part of the employment application process. An employer may also ask you to submit to a drug test if suspected drug use is impacting your ability to do your job. Not surprisingly, safety- and security-conscious jobs require employees to submit to regular drug testing.

 

About the Author

Ilene Tatroe has worked in the technology industry since 1996, with more than 10 years as a product manager for human capital management and workforce optimization applications. She has an MBA in marketing from Bentley University, as well as a Masters in journalism from New York University.

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