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Protecting Private Information in the Workplace

Employees often fail to consider the access given to employers regarding their personal information. As employees, we allow employers access to medical information, financial information, identifying information… even information about our spouses and children. We use the bathroom and possibly change clothing, and might even discuss personal issues, all the while assuming our privacy is protected. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

What rights do employees have when it comes to protecting the personal information they share with employers?

Protecting Privacy in the Workplace

Many issues of privacy related to employment include accusations of an employer invading privacy – perhaps to monitor employee behavior during work hours. The specific circumstances of each case determine whether or not an employee was victimized. For example, did an employee had a reasonable expectation of privacy? This would be the case while he or she is using the bathroom, but not while spending time in the communal breakroom.

In many cases, company policy dictates whether or not privacy should have been expected. If you are concerned about your right to privacy while on the job or while performing work duties, you should refer to your employee handbook and directly ask human resources if anything is unclear.

Protecting Private Information in the Hands of Employers

Another issue is whether or not employees should expect personal information be protected by employers.

Most employers having a company policy regarding privacy of information, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act also have specific requirements regarding sensitive medical and personal information. To learn more about the ADA, visit The United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

These laws also ensure only certain people (supervisors, managers, government officials monitoring for compliance, and safety and first aid personnel) have access to personal medical information about employees. This access is given for the safety of the individual employee and in the case of compliance officials, to protect the greater good.

New York’s Privacy Laws

There are also several New York State laws that provide protection regarding various issues to employees in the state.

The state offers protection of privacy under the New York Civil Rights Law. For instance, written consent must be given before a person's name, portrait, or picture can be used in advertising or marketing materials. Employers are also prohibited from recording an employee in a restroom, locker room, or room designated by an employer for employees to change their clothes, unless authorized by court order.

New York also prohibits eavesdropping by way of wiretapping, mechanical overhearing of a conversation, or intercepting or accessing of an electronic communication. And finally, there are protections regarding communication between employees provided under New York State’s Labor Law.

If you believe your privacy was invaded by your employer or you are concerned your personal information was put in jeopardy because of actions taken or not taken by your employer, we can help. Contact New York Employment Lawyers Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to discuss how we can help you.

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