The Issue of Workplace Employee Privacy

A public sector handbook is a set of instructions that gives reference to the delivery of goods and services for the government or its civilians. Employees in this sector are considered to be treasured assets. Putting this into consideration it is imperative that “the employer should be able to meet all the needs and expectations of employees by all means. To do so, the company or organization is supposed to have guidelines that can be used in handling employees effectively” (Smith, 2002). These guidelines often come in the form of employee handbooks or public sector handbooks. Therefore this paper is going to develop a public sector handbook about the privacy rights of employees that should be addressed, how the privacy protection will limit the public sector liability, how the private protection will enhance employee motivation and productivity and also put into consideration some ethical factors involved in the design of this sector. The paper will then conclude by giving a highlight on how to address the whole issue of workplace employee privacy.

“New technologies make it possible for employers to monitor many aspects of their employees’ job especially on telephone, computer terminal, through electronic and voice mail and when employees are using Internet” (Smith, 2002). Such scrutiny is almost unregulated. Consequently, policies should be put in place explicitly stating otherwise (although this may not be guaranteed), as employers can eavesdrop, watch and glance at employees’ communications at work. Some privacy can be bridged for quality purposes but others should not be encouraged. An example of those that can be encouraged is when employers listen to calls made to customers because of the enhancement of excellence. “Employers have obvious reasons for wanting to monitor their employees particularly in this age of technology; especially when the employers have specific concerns. Still, this fear provides incentives for employers who harbor important confidential information to electronically monitor their employees” (Smith, 2002).

The privacy rights to be addressed here involve monitoring of calls (records of calls obtained by employers), monitoring employees’ computer terminals when they are at work, video surveillance to see what the employees are doing all the time, the viewing of emails and listening of voicemails. To address these issues there should be adequate employee privacy protection policies to be followed by the employers. Employers should also give their employees flexible rules that are legally binding regarding calls and other privacy concerns. If new laws protecting employees’ privacy are enacted they should be publicized and followed accordingly. Organizations that support employees’ privacy at work should also be identified, consulted and necessary precautions are taken.

To steer clear of liability for certain immoral activities, it is true that employers need to carry out electronic monitoring. A good example is harassment and to some extent discrimination incidents. The employer is naturally liable for the actions made by the employees. This usually counts even if the employer knew of the cases or not.

In a recent example, Chevron Corporation was required to pay four plaintiffs $2.2 million, in total, when email evidence of sexual harassment was found by the plaintiffs’ attorneys. If Chevron had been closely monitoring its employees’ email, it might have been able to prevent the liability that resulted from an inappropriate forward of jokes that had circulated within the firm (Townsend, 1999).

Again courts are taking into consideration the fact that messages sent bearing later heads of an organization are approved by the employer. This necessitates employers to monitor their employees at the workplace to steer clear of any liability. However privacy protection can limit this in the sense that employees are given some freedom to work without being closely monitored. This makes the employees become ethical and trustworthy as it is a motivation in itself showing that the employer has trust in the employees. Taking this into consideration it is evident that privacy protection can limit liabilities.

Privacy protection can enhance employee motivation and productivity since it exhibits friendliness and care from the employer. With this kind of employee-employer relationship, trust is cultivated which in turn motivates the employees in going out of their way to achieve desired goals. Privacy protection in a way shows flexibility in an organization. With flexible rules again employees feel at ease in the workplace prompting them to give all they have in realizing productivity. Another aspect of privacy protection is the encouragement of teamwork. Teamwork makes it possible to realize the uppermost levels of performance and productivity.

Some of the ethical considerations involved in the design of this section are “employee awareness training in addition to publishing codes of ethics. Organizations must communicate to their employees about the organizations’ commitment to ethics. Employee awareness can be achieved through incorporating ethics discussion into regular meetings and employee forums” (Smith, 2002).

Usually, “when an employer starts a policy regarding any issue in the workplace, including privacy issues, that policy is legally binding. The policies can be communicated in various ways. These are through employee handbooks, via memos, and in union contracts” (Smith, 2002). An example of this is when the employer clearly shows that employees will be informed when call scrutiny is done. In this event, the employer must then respect the policy. There are some necessary exceptions on this though, which encompasses inquiry on illegal behaviors and conducts. Consequently, if employees are not informed of privacy guidelines in their places of work, they must be informed. Therefore as shown in this paper privacy issues at the workplace can be adjusted to enhance productivity and enhance quality services. To carry out these adjustments all stakeholders should be involved, who should also address ethical matters.


  1. Smith, P. (2002). Accelerating workplace performance. Journal of workplace privacy and protection 24 (2), 62-69.
  2. Townsend, J. (1999). Chevrons privacy liability. New York NY: Oxford University Press.
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