- Telephone monitoring. Under just about any scenario, you can monitor employees' telephone calls, either by recording them or tuning in. Some states, such as California, require that you give them a heads-up if you are recording calls. Most don't. However, if you're monitoring calls and you happen to listen in on a conversation that clearly is personal in nature, you are obliged to hang up. Yet if your company has a "no personal calls on company phones" policy described in your employee handbook, you can make note of a violation of that policy.
- Telephone records. You can review logs of individual employees' calls by the phone number dialed and the call duration.
- Conversations among employees. Generally these can be monitored on the same basis as business-related telephone conversations.
- Computer keystrokes and terminal monitors. Software is readily available that allows you to do this, and in general it's legal -- unless you have a formal agreement with employees not to do so, of course. The same applies to monitoring the amount of time employees spend active at the computer.
- Email. The email from and to employees who are using company-owned computers is not private. That includes Gmail, Yahoo or other such personal web-based email accounts accessed via a company computer. Employers also can review deleted email.
- Text messages. You generally can access texts to and from employees on company-owned smartphones. Similarly, you can also monitor the audio of calls placed on company-owned mobile phones.
- Snail mail. Mail addressed to an employee at the workplace generally can be opened by the employer. However, this area is somewhat murky; consult an attorney before proceeding.
- Video monitoring. As noted earlier, this has long been a common practice. Common sense exceptions must be made for places like locker rooms and bathrooms, however.
- Tracking employees via GPS systems. This generally is allowed if their movements are based on the requirements of their job, such as making deliveries, taking checks to the bank, and so on. However, it's best to inform employees that this is your practice.
1. What are the risks you are trying to reduce?
2. How serious are those risks?
3. How effective will the monitoring method be in reducing those risks?
4. How will employees respond to the knowledge that they are being monitored?