Can my employer require me to tell my co-workers and boss how I spend my time away from work?

My employer, a large public corporation, has decided that my team must know each other better. So meetings are scheduled during lunch hour, and each of us has to tell the team 10 things we do when we’re not working, provide biographical information, and so on. I’m guessing there’s a law that prohibits this type of intrusion.

Asked on August 24, 2011 Minnesota

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, you are wrong--there is no general law that prevents this. There is certain specific information that you don't have to disclose--certain things relating to health issues, for example. And you can't suffer negative work or job consequences for certain categories of disclosure--e.g. for disclosing matters related to your religion or race or disability or age (i.e. for disclosing information related to your membership in one of the categories protected against job discrimination). However, short of those specific limitations, there is no general privacy protection which prevents an employer by forcing employees to "bond" by sharing their out-of-work activities. And since employers have tremendous discretion in determining the terms and conditions of work--and disciplining or even firing employees who don't comply--which means that the employer may in fact make this mandatory.


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