Workplace Privacy – Testing, Checking, and Monitoring Employees

Quick Summary

Employee privacy rights in the workplace are often loosely defined by various state laws and some federal regulations. But mostly it’s a private company’s own policies that dictate whether job applicants and current employees can be tested for drugs, checked for criminal or negative financial activities, and otherwise monitored while at work. You’ll want to stay current on your state’s privacy rules as you craft reasonable privacy and activity policies that clearly define acceptable and unacceptable workplace behaviors. Written policies afford you more control over employee activities for the good of the company; and communicating them to employees builds trust and helps to prevent misunderstandings among your workers.

Testing for Drugs and Alcohol

Generally, private employers have the right to drug test job applicants and current employees, subject to state and federal employment and privacy laws. Being proactive in maintaining a drug-free workplace offers several benefits, including a reduction in accidents and insurance claims, and some protection from potential negligence lawsuits.

Pulling a Candidate's Credit Report

Most employers run credit checks only on applicants for executive-level positions, or for jobs that involve financial responsibilities, and then only after a job offer has been extended. Generally, a credit report is not a reliable applicant-screening tool because it doesn’t reveal much about a candidate’s qualifications and experience.

Running Background Checks on Job Applicants

According to a 2017 survey by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, background checks are nearly universal. Background checks can verify the accuracy of information reported on résumés and in interviews, and a “clean slate” report may influence the hiring decision between two otherwise equally well-qualified candidates. 

Monitoring Employee Social Media Activity at Work

Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, can be a powerful way for you and your employees to promote and grow your business. But there are potential liabilities if employees post inappropriate or proprietary information. A clearly defined social media policy can help you control and monitor how your employees use these accounts on company time.
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