On November 8, 2021, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a new law requiring employers to notify their employees in advance before engaging in electronic monitoring. The new electronic monitoring notice requirement will take effect on May 9, 2022. It only applies to private (non-governmental) employers. The new law is codified as New York Civil Rights Law Section 52-c.
It has long been a best practice to warn employees of the possibility of company review of electronic communications. Now it will be an affirmative statutory requirement in New York.
Beginning May 9, 2022, an employer must provide advance written (or electronic notice) to employees if it “monitors or otherwise intercepts telephone conversations or transmissions, electronic mail or transmissions, or internet access or usage of or by an employee by an electronic device or system, including but not limited to the use of a computer, telephone, wire, radio, or electromagnet, photoelectronic or photo-optical systems.”
This statute covers a wide array of electronic monitoring practices. Presumably, most employers will want to comply with the notice requirement in case they ever decide to engage in such activities.
The law says that prior written notice must be given upon hiring. However, it does not specifically indicate how employers must comply regarding employees already working as of the May 9, 2022 effective date.
The notice must be provided in writing or electronically to each employee. The employer must also obtain a written or electronic acknowledgment from each employee.
Employers all have to post the notice “in a conspicuous place which is readily available for viewing by its employees who are subject to electronic monitoring.”
To match the wording of the statute, notices should specifically advise employees that:
Any and all telephone conversations or transmissions, electronic mail or transmissions, or internet access or usage by an employee by an electronic device or system, including but not limited to the use of a computer, telephone, wire, radio or electromagnetic, photoelectronic or photo-optical systems may be subject to monitoring at any and all times and by any lawful means.
The only exception to the new electronic monitoring notice requirement relates to processes “performed solely for the purpose of computer system maintenance and/or protection.”
The New York Attorney General may prosecute any violation of the new law. Maximum civil penalties are $500 for the first offense, $1,000 for the second offense, and $3,000 for subsequent offenses.
There are many valid reasons for employers to conduct monitoring of their employees’ electronic activities. These scenarios range from a review of email communications in routine investigations to an analysis of potentially unlawful internet activity. Employers who wish to remain free to engage in such monitoring should proactively meet the requirements of this new law even if they don’t regularly intend to monitor employees’ activity online.