The use of cell phones is ubiquitous. For some, this might include carrying multiple phones for personal and business use. Much like using a desktop computer or laptop, a phone sends and receives a tremendous amount of information through internet searches, text messages, phone calls and emails.
Because of this, many companies have policies in place regarding the monitoring of these communications. Monitoring of office equipment, including phones, is in place to safeguard the organization in the chance of subpoenas for information or litigation involving the communication between internal employees and clients and customers.
Because phones, even work devices, have an aura of personalness about them, it’s important to be clear regarding monitoring policies. Beginning May 7, employers in the state of New York must provide notice stating an employee’s work phones, email and internet use is monitored. New hires subject to electronic monitoring will receive a written notice and written acknowledgement – through hard copy or electronic means.
Current employees will not receive a written acknowledgement, but employers must post notices about electronic monitoring. Failure to comply could result in penalties ranging from $500 for the first offense, $1,000 for the second offense and $3,000 for any subsequent offense.
Although this currently only applies to those operating in New York, this is a good opportunity to review onboarding policies related to the monitoring of work phones, emails and internet usage and set expectations accordingly.
Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, a law firm based in Birmingham, Ala., suggests the following tips:
- Review/Revise = existing policies related to work phones, email and internet usage. State expectations and let employees and new hires know monitoring is in place and misuse will result in consequences.
- Identify devices to be monitored.
- Include a training section that covers the policy that can be accessed at any time.
- State there is no prohibition on employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act.