Employee monitoring Essay


Employee monitoring, due to the increase in ethical issue such as cyberloafing sexual harassment, absenteeism, lawsuits and etc., has become more widespread and much easier with the use of new and advance monitoring technologies. Both employers and employees are concerned with the ethical implications of constant monitoring. Technology has now made it easy and inexpensive for employers to closely monitor the behaviours of employees. While employers use monitoring devices to keep track of their employees’ actions and productivity, their employees feel that too much monitoring is an invasion of their privacy and they do not like to be monitored in this fashion. Thus, the ethics of monitoring employees is explored and current practices are discussed. This paper further provides suggestions for reducing ethical issue and encourages organization to create and effectively communicate ethical standards for employee monitoring in their organization. Included in this paper were actual samples of employees’ perceptions and feelings from the surveys and discussions on being monitored from http://www.legalethics.com. The Information era has radically altered the traditional legal and organizational framework of work by blurring the once clear boundaries between an employee’s personal and professional lives. Traditional employee monitoring have been switch with new advancement of employee monitoring.

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These advances are aptly facilitated by appropriate information systems and tools supplied by employers for their employees. However, these systems and tools influence the professional life, private lives of employees, and sometimes ethical issue could happened by using sophisticated employees monitoring system. Employers increasingly using electronic monitoring technologies to observe what employees on the job given to them and to review their performance indicator. But, employee argue that electronic monitoring practices have significantly disturb employee privacy rights. However, employers might think there are many good reasons to electronically monitor employees in the workplace, including:

a) To monitor employee productivity in the workplace and time saving.

b) To maximize productive use of the employer’s computer system when employees use computers on the job.

c) To monitor employee compliance with employer workplace policies related to use of its computer systems, email systems, Internet access, and office telephone.

d) To investigate complaints of employee misconduct, including harassment and discrimination complaints through call monitoring, video monitoring and computer monitoring.

e) To prevent or respond to unauthorized access to the employer’s computer systems, including access by computer hackers.

f) To protect computer networks from becoming overloaded by large downloadable files. g) To help prepare the employer’s defence to lawsuits or administrative complaints such as those brought by employees related to discrimination, harassment, discipline, or termination of employment. We believe that employers should be allowed to electronically monitor workers but with certain manner and with ethics. In this project paper, we are focusing into three main employee monitoring which are call monitoring, video monitoring and computer monitoring.

In order to collect data, we use secondary data from various sources. The ethical issue we found in the online information then transferred into the problem solving issue which we relate it with the types of employee monitoring we found on the internet. Ethical issue then being discuss and recommendation regarding this issue of employee monitoring were created.

Figure: data gathering process

Call monitoring is action of listening to live phone calls and recording one’s observations (Riechley, 1996). The most important aspect of this system is the observer. Before the existence of new technologies nowadays, the observer can sit next to the person making the call, which can be helpful with new employees who need training tips. The observer can also be a secret caller and judge the phone representative by playing a customer role. Lastly, the observer could wear a headset or another electronic device and listen to the calls from a separate room. This last method could consist of the observer recording the various calls and listening to them at a later time. Throughout the phone call, the observer takes notes on an evaluation form in order to evaluate the call and give feedback to the employee (Riechley, 1996). Nowadays, almost all organizations allow an employer to
monitor or record employee conversations with customers for quality assurance purposes. Eavesdropping and phone tapping are the most common methods of call monitoring used by employers. Telephone tapping (also wire tapping or wiretapping in American English) is the monitoring of telephone and Internet conversations by a third party, often by covert means. The wiretap received its name because, historically, the monitoring connection was an actual electrical tap on the telephone line (Joshua, 2009). “The reason employers employ such tactics is to record the number, frequency, and destination of the calls” (Losey, 1994, p. 77). Telephone numbers dialled from phone extensions can also be recorded using a “pen register” that allows employers to identify not only the numbers dialled but the length of each call (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, 1997). There are two type of telephone tapping that have been used nowadays which is legal wiretapping by a government agency that is also called lawful interception or passive wiretapping. Passive wiretapping monitors or records the traffic, while active wiretapping alters or otherwise affects it. The active wiretapping refers to conversations that can be recorded or monitored unofficially, either by tapping by a third party without the knowledge of the parties to the conversation or recorded by one of the parties. This may or may not be illegal, according to the circumstances and the jurisdiction. The major exception to monitoring rules for phone calls is when the employee makes a personal call. Although law allows employers to monitor calls without warning or announcement, once the employer realizes that it is a personal call, the employer must stop monitoring the call. The only caveat to this is that if the employee has explicitly been told not to make personal calls from the particular phone, then the employer may be allowed to continue monitoring the call. Voice mail is a gray area of the law and it is likely that the rules in place for other forms of monitoring apply here. Employers are likely able to access an employee’s voice mail, provided that the employer hasn’t given employees the impression that their voice mail is private. The best practice is to have a good work-related justification established before monitoring an employee’s voice mail. One of the methods that is most effective forms of employee monitoring and is the most popularly among the employers is through the use of the video surveillance. It is becoming very popular security tool in the present times. This type
of technology is known as an electrical device that enables the capabilities to capture an embedded image. It also helps to allow the video images or extracted information that needs to be compressed, stores or transmitted over the communication networks or digital data link. The digital video surveillance is used for any process of monitoring in the workplace or used for the benefit of the society that can be used in many ways. It is also known as the closed-circuit television (CCTV) which can conduct a visual surveillance of persons as well as the places in the organization. Usually video surveillance systems have used the most by many employers especially in the security systems and this is done for the good reason of the organization. The presence if the video cameras would be functional to act as the deterrent to potential criminals and the terrorist attacks and other situations that is similar can be avoided with the help of the video surveillance system. Furthermore, possible dangers can be detected at the early stage so that appropriate and faster intervention would help to lower down the level of damage to the organization. Video surveillance is the most valuable and economical form of technology that can help to improve and protect the security of the employees and their valuable things. All of these become important in the situation that relate to ever-growing source of danger and increasing losses in the organization. By using the technology of video surveillance system, the employees are always in the picture for all the time as 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The employers also does not have to sit in front of the screen in order to monitor their employees. This is because any unusual incident that happen can be detected by the CCTV and appropriate signal is automatically transmitted to a predetermined location such as to a mobile phone. Then, appropriate steps can be taken in order to minimize the damage that happen. Nowadays, it is getting easier and easier to keep an eye on the employees. This is because there are some warrant and permission that has been given to the employers in the organization to use the technology of video surveillance. It also should include about a statement that shows the steps to be taken to assure that the surveillance will be minimized to effectuate only the purposes for which the order is issued and also a particularized description of the premises to be surveilled. In addition, video that shows about all of the employee activities are fed back to a central location where they are either
recorded or monitored live by another person that is responsible in the organization which has been given the authority by the management. “This is a benefit because it provides an unbiased method of performance evaluation and prevents the interference of a manager’s feelings in an employee’s review (Mishra and Crampton, 1998).” Management can review the performance of an employee in their working by checking the surveillance and detecting problems before they become too costly. Electronic mail is very important for many company and could make the working and data entry faster and reliable. “Electronic mail is becoming as common as the telephone as a workplace communication tool. But, unfortunately, employees’ personal use of the e-mail has resulted in lost work time and occasional improper use of the e-mail system. Electronic mail is the next step of employee monitoring system which use computer as the basic of this type of monitoring system. Electronic mail easily can help employee easily make correction on any errors made. Apart of that electronic mail can reduce time for employee to submit files, data entry send reports, communicate with client and etc. “Computer-based monitoring is the use of computerized systems to automatically collect information about how an employee is performing his or her job (George, 1996).” Today, various programs available that can help employer to monitor employee about their daily routine using internet. Employer can track internet activity by storing the websites the employee visits and record the time of their employee spend their time on that website. By doing so, employer can manage and monitor their employee period of time spend on the internet, but practically it this type of computer monitoring are not suitable for internet based organization such as help desk, network analyst, server company and etc. It is important to tracking employees’ e-mail. Computer monitoring system will track any e-mail that sent or received by the employee. Every time the employee sends an e-mail from their job, the company’s name is embedded in the address. To ensure the quality of a company’s good name, the employer has the right to monitor the e-mails sent and received. So it is very important for the company to make sure that every e-mail are well monitored and followed the company procedure. Some company will make sure their employees use e-mail only for the purpose of their work and not for any private issue. The employee could be wasting time visiting various sites, causing their
customer service skills to suffer (Hartman and Bucci, 1999). Employees can also unintentionally bring viruses into the company’s system by downloading from the Internet. If a company uses a computer-monitoring system, they can prevent a situation like this from occurring. Employee should be allowed and have right to see exactly what they did wrong if the company going to discipline based on the monitoring system for their employees. Company also should state clearly in their policy that any type of information found on the Internet or sent via company e-mail should be appropriate and not contain any discriminatory, racist, or defamatory issues. An employee could find useful information on the Internet that could improve his or her performance, but it must maintain ethical and professional standards. Apart of that, company should make sure that each employee sign a policy informing the company that they are aware of the monitoring guidelines, policies, and procedures that company regulates regarding this employees computer monitoring system. In many organization the attendance is very important factor for various purposes and its one of the important criteria that is to follow employees. By using computer monitoring system which including automatic attendance system which automates the whole process of taking attendance and maintaining it. Automatic attendance system using fingerprint verification technique. A fingerprint is captured by user interface, which are likely to be an optical solid state or an ultrasound sensor. It makes employer monitor their employees’ attendance easily using computer based system. ETHICAL ISSUES

Privacy at work. One issue, in regards to technology, is the loss of privacy at work. Currently, most employers feel it is their right to read and intercept private Electronic and Voice Mail of their employees. It is understandable that workers often feel as if their rights were violated if personal email was intercepted or read without their permission. However, many employers feel that by reading e-mail, they may be able to prevent personal use or abuse of company resources, employee theft, and/or espionage. One of the core arguments against surveillance is that it poses a threat to privacy, which is of value to the individual and to society. This raises a number of questions about privacy, what it is and to what extent and why it is valuable. Warren and Brandeis’ The Right to Privacy (Warren
and Brandeis 1890) is generally taken as the first attempt to define the concept of privacy. Here the authors claim that the right to privacy is an instance of the “right to be let alone” and establish limits to that right, arguing that it is not absolute. More recently W.A. Parent (Parent 1983) argued that privacy involved the control of undocumented information about oneself. This has been contested by Jeffrey Reimann (Reiman 2004) and Tony Doyle (Doyle 2009), who hold that privacy is not restricted to information. A porn star whose body is freely available for all to see may still have his or her privacy violated if spied upon in his or her own home. Perhaps management should consider the feelings of workers, before they unethically view, or listento private mail, of any kind. Cyberloafing at work. Much of the research has been devoted to how technological advancements have created a new efficient workplace, revolutionizing the ways in which work is being carried out, and how employees can improve their productivity while enjoying their work. However, the advent of technology has also opened up new avenues and opportunities for individuals to misbehave (Lim, 2002). The study of cyberloafing. “The act of employees using their companies’ Internet access for personal purposes during work hours” focuses on a form of production deviance (Lim, 2002). The following are some general comments gathered on http://www.legalethics.com. on a discussion about cyberloafing and whether their firms had an Internet Policy at work. “Personally, I really do not like the idea of being monitored. It’s an issue of privacy and having personal space at work. For example, I have my desk at work and I would feel uncomfortable knowing that management will randomly search the contents on my desk or in my draws and files. Yes, it is the company’s property; however, it is natural for human beings to feel territorial. I was responsible with creating the internet/computer usage policy at my organization. When I came aboard at this non-profit organization I was quite surprised to see co-workers spending most of their time chatting, sending personal emails, and surfing in general.” “I read a report that as much as 30-40 of an employee’s productivity could be lost due to Internet surfing for non-job related activities. Therefore, I would support monitoring devices for such loafing. I would also support educating employees about such policies that will impact them. When these policies are in place, then they should be fully enforced in order for them to become a part of the
culture and deter wrongdoings.” “Using the Internet for non-work related activities is OK in this University because we get paid below the average in this city. We work very hard and receive no appreciation for it – not even a virtual thank you.” Stressful environment.These pressures and stressors have also been considered a major contributor to employee psychological and physical health complaints. In the Smith (1992) study above, monitored workers indicated more somatic health complaints, such as stiff/sore wrists; pain/stiffness in the shoulders, arms, legs, neck, and back, racing heart, acid indigestion and stomach aches, headaches, depression, severe fatigue/ exhaustion, extreme anxiety and high tension. At AT;T, where computer monitoring is used extensively, at least 25% of the workforce is involved in job counseling for work-related emotional disorders” (Pai, 1997). In another example, a TWA reservation agent who has worked for the same company for 30 years says things have drastically changed. The reservation agent said that after years of stress from constant monitoring, her work and health suffered. She commented that, “I suffered nausea, severe sleep disturbance, weakened eyesight, mental confusion, headaches, muscle aches, exhaustion, and lymph node pain” (Worsnop, 1993, p. 1025). In addition, a study by the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Industrial Engineering concluded that “electronic monitoring was seen as a major cause of phycological and physical health complaints among workers” (Worsnop, 1993, p. 1025). “Monitoring makes us feel like prisoners hooked up to a computer; mistreated, guilty, paranoid, enslaved, violated, angry, and driven at a relentless pace” (Worsnop, 1993, p. 1025). There are also cases known as “bathroom break harassment” where workers’ stress becomes unbearable because employees fail to take needed bathroom breaks out of fear of termination. In one example, a telephone service worker suffered a nervous breakdown (9 to 5, 1986). In another example, a United Airlines’ employee was threatened with firing when her supervisor told her she want over her allotted time while she was in the bathroom and coworkers had to take extra calls to make up for her “abusive” work habits (flight reservationists are permitted 12 minutes for bathroom breaks during a 7.5 hour period) (9 to 5, 1986). The National Association of Working Women summed it all up by saying, the work lives of monitored employees can be characterized by three words: invasion, stress, and fear (Worsnop, 1993, p.

To ensure high ethical employee behavior, every level of management and non-management employees must fully understand the ethical implications of their decisions as it relates to their personal and professional values. It is also recommended that all business managers display the code of ethics on their desks in a healthy manner. Real world learning and the negative end results of unethical behaviour or actions should be showcased to support this venture. Ethical behaviors are vital to a corporation’s overall success. If a corporation chooses to engage in employee monitoring, this practice needs to be posted or announced to all employees. Employees need to understand the laws and the corporation’s policies and Code of Conduct. If everyone understands the ground rules and the playing field then our work environment will be fairer. In closing, if an employee is being ethical and following the corporation’s policies, s/he should not be concerned with monitoring. To balance this statement, employers need to be respectful, open and honest in advising employees of its monitoring, and businesses should conduct their monitoring within the guidelines of the law. There should be an allowance for a right of redress by the employee being monitored. The employee may feel that the observer took something out of context or misunderstood a certain situation. If the employee feels this way, he or she can then give an explanation on the occurrence. The supervisor can help think of different ways to handle the situation next time. Thus, it is important to improve all of the problems that happen throughout using the employee monitoring systems in order to make the use of it become very efficient and effective. As the Internet becomes more widely known and used, people need to understand that unless you know the “rules of the road”, our on-line activity may lead to significant privacy problems. From this, the organizations can gain many advantages and benefits of using the system.


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