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Be cautious of employee privacy

Privacy in the workplace is a complicated issue. While it is clear that employers have fewer rights to privacy at work than in their personal lives, many employers still struggle to strike the right balance. Violating employee privacy can have negative legal repercussions, so employers in Georgia should be sure to familiarize themselves with workplace privacy laws.

Are desks considered private?

In general, employers can search their employees’ workspaces. Workspaces may include desks, lockers or offices. Since these workspaces belong to the employer, employees do not have the right to privacy in these areas. However, it is possible that there may be exceptions to this under extenuating circumstances.

What about computers?

If a work computer belongs to an employer, then he or she can monitor its usage. Employers are generally well within their rights to search saved files on the computer or to monitor how their employees are using the computer, such as browsing the internet during working hours. Employers might also choose to monitor employee activity in other ways, including by:

  • Reading emails
  • Listening to phone calls
  • Monitoring text messages on company phones

There are limitations on what an employer can monitor. For example, searching workers at the end of the day is usually only permitted in certain situations, and the law typically prevents employers from administering polygraph tests. This does not mean that it is always against the law to take such actions, although some Georgia employers might feel understandably concerned about whether their monitoring practices violate employee privacy.