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My Supervisor talked to me about performance issues I’ve had. He stated that they
could start tracking my company owned phone and laptop. Is this legal?
Asked on March 24, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Missouri
M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney
Answered 4 years ago | Contributor
First of all, does this action violate the terms of a union agreement or employment contract? If not, then in an “at will” employment relationship, a company can set the conditions of work much as it sees fit (absent some form of legally actionable discrimination). Accordingly, your employer can track your personal use of its computer and limit your private calls and other such use its cell phone. After all, they are both company property and your employer has a legitimate business interest in doing so. For example, to guard against submission of false time reports and the taking of unauthorized absences. And you yourself indicated, your company is concerned about your performance. Additionally, your employer has to watch out for its best interests and professional protection. It is responsible for you and can be legally liable for your actions, and a company issued computer and cell phone are extensions of the workplace. That all having been said, you do have some rights. First, your employer should disclose any monitoring systems to you, which in fact it has done. However, constant tracking of your computer or phone (i.e. on your off hours) may violate your right of privacy. Accordingly, your employer would be well advised to narrowly craft its monitoring policy to avoid encroaching on your privacy during non-work hours. For example, the devices could have a scheduler installed so that your employer could refrain from tracking during your off hours. Bottom line here, since this is an area of the law that is still evolving and each state has its own statutes dealing with it, you should directly consult with an local employment law attorney for further advice.
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