Employees and potential employees are protected from many forms of discrimination and harassment under Title VII of The Civil Rights Act, and may also enjoy protections under state and local laws. Other rights, such as your right to privacy, can fall into grey areas and the laws are constantly evolving to keep up with technology and cultural changes. An employment law attorney can help you determine if your civil rights have been violated by your employer and what you can do about it.
The right to privacy in the workplace and as it applies to employment situations, is a very broad and controversial subject. Issues and incidents which may fall under privacy include:
- Video and audio surveillance and monitoring
- Monitoring of computer and other electronic device use
- Drug testing
The level of privacy that you can expect in the workplace varies. Your desk and computer are typically not protected, but your briefcase, purse, or other personal effects may be. Video surveillance in public areas is not only acceptable, it may be required for your employer to provide adequate safety to its employees. Video surveillance in restrooms or changing areas, however, is not acceptable.
Drug testing is typically acceptable during the hiring process, but testing existing employees may be considered a violation of privacy unless the test is for certain reasons which vary from state to state.
Employee use of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, outside the workplace is sometimes protected. Many employers have retaliated against their employees for posts on their private social media pages, ranging from outright badmouthing of the company, to posts which make no reference to the company but are seen as bad for the company image.
Each case is unique, and your posts may be protected under many laws for many reasons. For instance, what your employer interprets as badmouthing the company may be considered protected discussion of workplace conditions by the National Labor Relations Board.
False imprisonment occurs when an employee is intentionally and illegally held against their will. It can happen if your employer locks you in a room, but can also be by threat such as threatening bodily harm or threatening to have you arrested if you attempt to leave.
The length of time you are detained weighed against the reason for your detainment is generally used to determine whether false imprisonment has occurred. For instance, employers can reasonably detain employees who are suspected of theft, in order to determine if they have committed the theft or are in possession of the item, but there is a limit as to how long the detainment can last and that is weighed against the severity of the theft.