In 1986, the United States Congress passed into law the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)(10) the federal law statute provides for criminal and civil sanctions for ‘‘any person who...intentionally intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept ... any wire, oral, or electronic communication.’’ However the ECPA contains a number of exceptions with ‘‘permitted interceptions’’ of communications, including: (a) the ‘‘Business Extension’’ exception; (b) the ‘‘One Party Consent’’ exception; and (c) an exception regarding the Employer protecting its Rights or Property. Also allows for access to and examination of (d) ‘‘stored’’ employee communications. In addition virtually every state has some sort of statute dealing with eavesdropping. In sum, under the law an employer have a legitimate right to protect themselves and make sure that employees execute their responsibilities and this allows them to engage in electronic surveillance of employees in the vast majority of circumstances.
The common law tort of invasion of privacy is recognized by most states. The Restatement (Second) of Torts §652B defines invasion of privacy as: “...intentionally intruding, physically or otherwise, upon the solitude or seclusion of another..., if the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.”(1). That said, the employee can reasonably expect to have some privacy and an expectation that monitoring should not become an intrusion or even highly offensive. Although for many legitimate reasons organizations can and do monitor what is occurring on their buildings and computer systems. However those attitudes create an ethical dilemma that can range from workplace harassment, to loss of productivity, and even to company sabotage.
Nord G. Daryl, McCubbins Tipton F. and Nord Jeretta Horn (2006). E-Monitoring in the Workplace: PRIVACY, LEGISLATION, AND SURVEILLANCE SOFTWARE.Full Text Available. Communications of the ACM; Aug2006, Vol. 49 Issue 8, p73-79, 5p, 2 Charts.
Halbert, T., & Ingulli, E. (2009). Law & ethics in the business environment: 2010 custom edition (6th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.
Sapienza, H. J., & Korsgaard, M. A. 1996. Managing investor relations: The impact of procedural justice in establishing and sustaining investor support. Academy of Management Journal, 39: 544-574
Creed, W. E. D., & Miles, R. E. 1996. Trust in organizations: A conceptual framework linking organizational forms, managerial philosophies, and the opportunity costs of controls. InRM.
Kramer & T. R. Tyler (Eds.), Trust in organizations: Frontiers of theory and research: 16-38. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Rousseau, D. M. 1990. Assessing organizational culture: The case for multiple methods. In B. Schneider (Ed.), Organizational climate and culture: 153-192. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
O'Reilly, C. A., Ill, & Caldwell, D. R. 1985. The impact of normative social influence and cohesiveness on task perceptions and attitudes: A social information processing approach. Journal of Occupational Psychology, 58: 193-206.
Taylor, M. S., Tracy, K. B., Renard, M. K., Harrison, J. K., & Carroll, S. J. 1995. Due process in performance appraisal: A quasi-experiment in procedural justice. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40: 495-523.
Halpern David, Reville Patrick J., Grunewald Donald. (2008) Management and Legal Issues Regarding Electronic Surveillance of Employees in the Workplace. Journal of Business Ethics 80:175–180 _ Springer 2007 DOI 10.1007/s10551-007-9449-6 (pg 176)
Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved on 10/20/2011 from: http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/privacy?region=us
Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 USC 2510, et. Seq. Retrieved at 10/20/2011 from: www.law.cornell.edu/uscode
Watkins v. L.M. Berry & Co., 704 F.2d 577, 583 (11th Cir. 1983)
Labor Code Chapter 557 Section 31-48b. Retrieved at 10/20/2011 from: www.cga.ct.gov/2009/pub/chap557.htm#Sec31-48b.htm
State-by-state summaries. Retrieved at 10/20/2011 from: http://www.rcfp.org/taping/states.html