Privacy at Work: What Are Your Rights?


Posted by: Chris

Technology has changed many of the old rules about privacy in the workplace and employees may be surprised to learn that their privacy rights are actually quite limited at work. Many companies already monitor employees’ email and Internet usage and use video surveillance technology to supervise workers throughout the day.

If you are concerned about your privacy rights at work, here’s what you need to know:

Internet and Email Privacy

Since employers own the computers, phones, and email systems their employees use at work, employees should not expect to have any privacy over their online use and emails while on the job. Employers can typically monitor computer usage as well as emails sent from the company computer system as long as their purpose in doing so is related to the business. Many employer email systems today have monitoring software to check for employee productivity and misuse of the system, so employees should not expect any privacy when it comes to work emails.

Phone Calls and Voicemail

While employers do have the right to monitor calls made to and from their locations, there are some limitations that apply. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) prohibits employers from monitoring employees’ personal phone calls even if they are made or received at work. The ECPA also prohibits an employer from reading, deleting, disclosing, or preventing access to an employee’s voicemail messages.

Social Media

An employer in Oklahoma cannot require their employees or anyone applying for a job to provide their user names, passwords, or other authenticating information for any personal social media account. Oklahoma law also prohibits employers from accessing an employee’s or applicant’s personal social media accounts to gain access to anything not available to the public. There are some exceptions, such as if the access is part of an investigation or to comply with state or federal laws. Employers are also prohibited from taking any type of adverse action against an applicant or an employee if they refuse to provide the information.

Drug Testing

In Oklahoma, employers are allowed to require employees to take drug tests at random or for cause. Oklahoma employees injured in a workplace accident may be asked to submit to a drug test to determine if a controlled substance played any part in their accident. Some Oklahoma employers may require this, and it is their right to do so if they have a written policy in place and employees have been notified about it at least 30 days prior to testing. Any drug or alcohol policy affecting Oklahoma employees must comply with the state’s Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act. 

In addition, employers can require drug tests as part of a routine physical exam that may be required as a condition of employment or as a follow-up exam to an employee’s rehabilitation program. If an employer has a reasonable belief that an employee is working under the influence of drugs, the employer is allowed to drug test that employee.

Searches

Employers are generally allowed to search an employee’s workspace as well as their company-owned equipment like a computer or phone. Employers may also search company-owned vehicles used by employees; however, searches of an employee’s personal vehicle are typically not allowed.

Have your rights been violated at work? If so, seek legal representation from the experienced attorneys at Armstrong & Vaught, P.L.C. right away. Our team will fight to protect your rights and recover compensation from your employer. Call us now at 918-582-2500, toll free at (800) 722-8880, or contact us online for a free consultation with a skilled attorney.