Thanks to technology, employers are essentially now able to track an employee’s every move. Whether it be on the internet, on sales routes, or in a production center, technological advancements have made it easy to monitor an employee’s movements in ways that could only be imagined a couple of decades ago. As we have discussed in the past, there are benefits and risks to tracking an employee through GPS software.
Benefits of Employee Monitoring
The benefits of tracking an employee’s physical activity through GPS include:
(i) verifying routes and locations for mobile employees,
(iii) supervising employee overtime, and potentially avoiding costly wage and hour claims,
(iv) validating the accuracy of employee time cards,
(v) verifying that employees are not misusing company vehicles.
This list is not exhaustive. And surely, many of these points help contribute to an efficiently run business. So when does it become too much?
Navigating Employee Privacy and Employer Needs
California has a strong tradition of protecting the individual’s right to privacy and at the center of the debate on the lawfulness of the GPS tracking of employees is the employee’s right to privacy vs. the employer’s need for productivity and business-related information. Given that, under the California Constitution, “all people” have an inalienable right of privacy, California employers must approach the situation with caution and with the guidance of experienced business counsel.
Job Performance and Employee Tracking
If GPS tracking is not related to employee job performance, then it is best to be avoided. For example, cataloging off-duty activities may violate constitutional rights to privacy. In Arias v. Intermex Wire Transfer, an employee sued her former employer for wrongful termination, invasion of privacy, unfair business practices, retaliation, and other claims, seeking over $500,000 in damages, claiming she was unjustly fired for uninstalling a GPS app from a company-issued smart phone that was tracking her movements — even when she was off the clock. This suit, privately settled, is likely not the last of its kind.
Employment Policies and GPS Tracking
Again, the limited and focused use of employee monitoring software is generally a sensible business practice. That being said, California employers using GPS to monitor employees should have policies that carefully address potential employee legal landmines. As with other kinds of workplace monitoring (i.e., cameras in the workplace, use of email and Internet tracking systems), we recommend (a) full disclosure to employees, and (b) obtaining employee consent.
For more information on how to address the use of GPS monitoring devices in the California workplace, contact experienced business attorney Drew E. Pomerance today.