GPS tracking at workplaces is a controversial topic among many, but in the United States courts have consistently ruled that workplace related GPS tracking is reasonable and is similar to surveillance video monitoring. GPS tracking can only be used to track employees who are at work, and for work related purposes. For instance, it is legal to ask why an employee’s cell phone showed that they were at a restaurant instead of on a delivery route at a time when they were on the clock. Using GPS tracking to monitoring employees should have a real business purpose, and the phone must be issued by the employer to the employee. Outside of business hours the tracking device should not be used.
GPS has evolved to be used in many ways in modern workplaces outside of just tracking and surveillance. GPS is often used in delivery and transportation workplaces because it can help management track where there employees are driving. It can also be used to guide and direct drivers to appropriate locations and adjust routes on the fly as needed. In other cases it can be used to find drivers or employees that are closest to a new job site and redirect them quickly. In law enforcement, the nearest police cars to the scene of a crime or emergency can be easily found. When it comes to legality of use, GPS must only be used for workplace related monitoring and business uses.
The courts usually favor employers in GPS tracking cases. In one case, an employee in New York was shown to be leaving work early on his employer issued cell phone. The cell phone had GPS tracking, and the employee was terminated. The case went to court and the judge upheld that the tracking was justifiable as well as the termination. The employee was also informed that the phone would have GPS tracking installed on it, and the judge ruled that the employee should not have expected privacy while working as a result of this. The judge ruled that the way the information about the employee’s whereabouts was collected (by the use of GPS) was justifiable and legal.
If there is a real question about the legality of using GPS, a business lawyer can always be consulted, but many work related tracking purposes are allowable, only if the phone is provided to the employee. GPS tracking cannot be installed on an employee owned phone for work related tracking purposes. Employers are also allowed to listen in to employee calls when they are at work and obtain record of calls made on the employer’s phone. In addition, it should be known that all phones can be tracked by law enforcement if they are on, even those without GPS, if law enforcement has a probable cause to pursue a suspect.
Computer monitoring by employers is also considered to be legal. Like cell phones, monitoring must only be installed on employer owned computers. Monitoring software can monitor any of an employee’s activities while they are on an employer owned computer including emails, web browser and software usage. Entertainment websites and other websites can legally be filtered from a web browser. Computer monitoring can be used by employers to improve productivity and keep compliant with regulations. It can also be used to collect evidence in the case that it is needed during a legal investigation or lawsuit. Employees may also legally be fired for computer misuse while at work, and this type of monitoring is so common that over two thirds of employers utilize it.
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