Can My Employer Monitor Me While I Work from Home?
As an ever-increasing number of employees are switching to remote working, many employers use surveillance apps to monitor their workers during work hours.
But can your employer spy on you at home?
Simply put: No. Employers cannot “spy” on their employees at home … unless the employee is working with particular company-owned equipment or is given notice of the monitoring and gives consent.
Beyond that, what are the laws that govern monitoring employees who work from home? There are several to consider.
If you believe that your privacy rights were violated while your employer was watching you at home, do not hesitate to contact our Los Angeles employee privacy rights lawyer at Obagi Law Group, P.C.
How can employers monitor their work-from-home employees?
An increasing number of employers in California are using surveillance apps to monitor their work-from-home employees, keep track of those employees’ productivity levels, and ensure that their workers are actually performing their job duties during work hours.
There are various ways employers can monitor their employees who work from home:
- Taking screenshots through surveillance apps
- Installing a webcam or using the webcam on the worker’s device
- Keeping track of the remote worker’s Internet or browser activity
- Keeping track of what an employee types on their keyboards
- Monitoring the worker’s location via GPS
- Checking the worker’s productivity through apps that show the laptop’s idle time and other data
Generally, when an employee is working from home using company equipment while on the company’s network (also known as VPN), the employer can legally monitor everything that employee does with that equipment.
However, if you are working on your own device while using your own Internet connection, your employer must give you notice of their intention to monitor you, and you must provide your consent for the monitoring, in order for such surveillance to be legal.
Is it legal to monitor remote employees in California?
In California, employers can face criminal penalties for eavesdropping or recording their employees’ private communications via telephone or email unless all parties to the communication consent to the monitoring (California Penal Code § 631).
The legality of employee monitoring is also covered in federal law. Pursuant to Title I of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA), it is illegal to intentionally use, intercept, or obtain electronic or oral communication.
However, the ECPA has the “business use” exception, which gives employers a right to monitor any electronic and oral communication of their employees if there is a legitimate business reason to do so. There is also a second exception — when the employer obtains the consent of the employee to monitor their electronic communication.
While it is illegal for employers to spy on their employees at home without the employee’s knowledge and consent, it can be legal for them to monitor their work-from-home employees if there is a legitimate business purpose for doing so.
However, each case is unique, which is why it is best to consult with a knowledgeable employment lawyer in Los Angeles to discuss your particular situation. Schedule a free initial consultation with our employee privacy rights lawyers at Obagi Law Group, P.C. to talk about the legality of monitoring. Call 424-284-2401.