Can Employer Surveillance Influence Employee Behavior?


A couple of recent articles in the New York Times and The Atlantic magazine caught my attention. Although the articles are from very different perspectives, both articles made me think about dishonest employees and how employers deal with them.
Let’s start with the basic principle addressed in The Atlantic article. The author points out that most of us lie. Apparently, Americans lie about 1.65 times per day. Nonetheless, lying is the most disliked among the 555 personality traits ranked in a recent survey.  
In the modern workplace, employers’ need to keep employees honest hasn’t changed. Effective surveillance has always been a part of employers’ strategy for deterring employee dishonesty, and new technologies offer a wide variety of monitoring opportunities, such as: 
  • Online research and social media.  The internet may be the source of information that contradicts employees’ claims of injury, illness, emotional distress, or other personal circumstances in a way that is valuable to the employer in dispute.
  • Monitoring software.  Employers can install software capable of monitoring almost any aspect of employees’ use of the employers’ electronic systems, including speed of performance, unauthorized accessing of data or internet sites, and email communication
  • Surveillance methods.  These systems can include cameras, microphones, and facility access recording devices
  • Remote tracking.  Employee location can be tracked through various GPS devices associated with cell phones, vehicles, and computers.
Research shows that employer surveillance works not only to discourage dishonesty; it may also improve business results. In the New York Times article, the author points out that when restaurant employees knew that they were being monitored, they increased their sales efforts while reducing their dishonest practices.
As an employment lawyer, I was struck by the fact that neither article discussed the risks associated with using employee surveillance to alter employee behavior. Employers need to be careful about how they use these mechanisms. Watch for our next post, which will discuss how employers can minimize the risks associated with employee surveillance.


Written by:

Published In:

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Gray Plant Mooty | Attorney Advertising

Don't miss a thing! Build a custom news brief:

Read fresh new writing on compliance, cybersecurity, Dodd-Frank, whistleblowers, social media, hiring & firing, patent reform, the NLRB, Obamacare, the SEC…

…or whatever matters the most to you. Follow authors, firms, and topics on JD Supra.

Create your news brief now - it's free and easy »

All the intelligence you need, in one easy email:

Great! Your first step to building an email digest of JD Supra authors and topics. Log in with LinkedIn so we can start sending your digest...

Sign up for your custom alerts now, using LinkedIn ›

* With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name.