Companies are looking for better ways to keep tabs on their employees not only while they are on the clock, but also while they are outside of the office. Many believe that companies should not be bothered with what their employees are doing off the clock, but companies feel differently. They want to know that their employees are being good representatives of the organization, especially if they are wearing apparel with the company logo on it. One way companies are tracking employees is through the use of GPS, but is this ethical? Companies need to learn what is legal when it comes to monitoring employees.
Monitor Employees While on the Clock
A long debate has raged about tracking employees while they are on the clock, with GPS tracking of employees the focal point. Companies have been monitoring employees while on the clock using GPS tracking since GPS became available, especially when it comes to monitoring their use of company vehicles and other equipment that is loaned while they are employed. For the most part, employee tracking using GPS is used to ensure that employees are tracking their time appropriately on time sheets and not stealing company money.
It is understandable for people to waste time while at work by talking with co-workers, taking a personal call or browsing the internet. This is why some companies monitor what their employees do while on the clock, especially if they have employees who routinely waste a large amount of time. Salary.com conducted an online survey in 2013 that found 69 percent of workers polled in the United States waste time at work.
Prove Legitimate Rationale
Before you put a monitoring system in place at your company, it is imperative to prove that there is a legitimate rationale behind doing so. If you cannot come up with a rationale behind such a practice, then consider monitoring your employees in some other fashion. Examples of legitimate business rationales include the following:
- Preventing time theft
- Increasing productivity
- Improving response time
- Keeping accurate time and attendance records
- Increasing efficiency of travel routes
- Ability to locate employees quickly
There are different laws from state to state regarding the GPS tracking of employees. For example, many states allow companies to GPS track company issued vehicles, cell phones, tablets and computers in an effort to prevent theft. But, if the company wishes to GPS track an employee’s private vehicle or private computer or phone, it would have to obtain permission first from the employee.
Companies considering instituting a GPS tracking system of employees should provide advance notice of this new policy to employees. Advance notice will allow the company to determine any legal issues that could arise with the program. It will also give the company advanced time to answer any questions employees might have.
How to Track without GPS
It is possible for companies to track their employees without using GPS, and some have done it successfully. For example, some companies that have the majority of their employees in company-owned vehicles daily, install dash cams in the vehicles. These dash cams are typically pointed towards the driver and interior of the vehicle, not facing through the windshield. This helps to cut down on distracted driving.
The reason behind the increase in dash cam monitoring of employees using company-owned vehicles could be the letter issued to all employers back in 2010 by OSHA. The letter told employers that it is their “responsibility and legal obligation to create and maintain a safe and healthful workplace, and that would include having a clear, unequivocal and enforced policy against the hazard of texting while driving.”
Can Companies Monitor Employees off the Clock?
Is it possible, legally, for companies to monitor employees who are off the clock using GPS? This debate has raged for years, and likely will not come to an end anytime soon. Companies can monitor employees of the clock so long as they have policies in place that are explained to the employee on the day they sign their contract.
For example, Company A might have a policy that says all employees are to report moving violations to a superior even if using their personal vehicle. Should the employee not report the violation to their superior they could be subject to discipline. It might also be written in the policy that a specific number of moving violations by the employee could lead to termination from their job. If the company does not believe the employee is telling the truth it is possible that a GPS tracking policy could be put into place.
What is the Law?
The bottom line here is that companies must review the laws in their respective states before instituting GPS tracking of employees, especially when off the clock. Each state has different laws associated with such monitoring. The key lesson here is to learn the laws and perform due diligence prior to starting a monitoring program.