Privacy Issues in Workplace

Published: 31st July 2009
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The Federal government and the state of California passed several laws that protect the privacy of workers while prohibiting employers to conduct intrusive monitoring activities and inquiry that violate the rights of other people.

Surveillance Camera

In Los Angeles California, it is illegal to install camera-mirror surveillance (a video camera which looks like a mirror) in restrooms, locker rooms, and fitting rooms. Meanwhile, employers and establishment owners can install cameras as long as they can justify that they put such equipment for a certain purpose, in good faith and without malice.

Before installing a surveillance camera, employers should first know the state privacy laws. For example, in Connecticut, privacy laws are stricter compared to other states since employers are prohibited to install surveillance in places associated with comfort such as employee's lounge area and locker rooms.

Off-Duty Behavior

Most states, including California, prohibit employers to monitor their workers' off-duty activities and behavior and disallow them to take job-related actions against someone based on his or her off-duty conduct.

Exception to the rule: Many states allow employers to terminate or discipline workers whose off-duty behavior have embarrassed or maligned the reputation of their companies.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

Because California has enacted drug-free workplace programs for state contractors, it is legal to conduct drug and alcohol testing. Also, employers have the right to deny benefits to workers who are injured or terminated because of alcohol or drug abuse.

Few years ago, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling that gives employers the right to test workers for drugs and alcohol, allowing private companies in most states to conduct such medical examination to determine substance and alcohol abuse.

However, some states still prohibit employers to test workers for drugs and alcohol. To prevent legal issues, it is important to check the state policy.

Lie Detector Tests

The Federal Polygraph Protection Act prevents employers to force workers and applicants to take any mechanical or electrical lie detector test including polygraphs, voice stress analyzers, deceptographs, and psychological stress evaluators.

Exception to the rule: Workers who are applying in sensitive positions such as security guards, police officers, and anything to do with law enforcement agencies and those who are applying in drug manufacturing companies and distributors are not covered by the Federal Polygraph Protection Act.


Employees working in federal and state agencies have a constitutional protection against searches. Meanwhile, most private employees may be subjected to searches as long as these are conducted inside their companies (e.g. locker room, desks).

To prevent lawsuits, employers should conduct searches in good faith-and without malice-that aim to provide safety and protection to their workers.

Personality and Psychological Tests

There is no federal law that prohibits employers from conducting personality and psychological tests for applicants and workers. However, such written examinations should not be intrusive to the extent that it violate the privacy rights of people.

To help you deal with Los Angeles workplace issues, consult with our experienced employment lawyers. Visit our website and call us toll free for legal assistance.

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