Is your boss spying on you at and off work?

| November 12th, 2012 | No Comments »

How much privacy can be expected at work wherein everyday we are using our employer’s computers and equipment?  Employers want to make sure that they are receiving their return on investments when collecting basic information about their employees pay, attendance or benefits, and they want to be able to ensure that work is being done efficiently and safely.  Though, it is normal to give up some privacy while working for someone else, how far can employer’s watchful eye go and do employers have right to spy on workers?

Toronto Employment Lawyer, Daniel Lublin explains in his latest Globe and Mail article that generally, it is not illegal in Canada to hire a private investigator to spy on an employee who says he or she is too sick to work.  Especially if it is found that the same employee is performing physical tasks that they say they cannot perform while at work.

Most often if there is a problem with theft or security, employers will install security cameras focused on a specific location; which is not illegal.  They have the right to monitor their staff in some situations, but only if this is done in good faith and where there is a reasonable belief that an offence is being committed.  However, if there is no good reason for a camera and it is being installed without employees’ knowledge, the best first step would be to consult with an employment lawyer to discuss the employer’s new policy and see what options one might have.

Employers often monitor employees’ workplace computers, their e-mails and their Internet usage to ensure the devices are not being misused.  New fingerprinting technology is enabling employers to use more sophisticated machines and scan employees’ fingerprints in order to monitor their absence during the work day.  Due to the absence of stronger privacy laws there is no easy way to prevent the employer from installing those machines.

As part of the hiring process, job candidates’ public online profiles are often reviewed by employers and recruiters.  Provided that hiring decisions are made on the basis of legitimate job qualifications that are thereby revealed and not on any human rights grounds, there is currently nothing illegal about this practice, although some may view it immoral.

But whether or not privacy is protected by law or contract, respecting privacy in the workplace makes good business sense.

Daniel Lublin’s article and some more information about privacy law can be found in his Globe and Mail column.




The Changing Face of Workplace Privacy

| July 10th, 2011 | No Comments »

Increased use of social media has continued to catapult workplace privacy to the forefront of employment law.  As the line that used to separate conduct at home from the workplace continues to fade, more and more employees are finding out one “tweet” too late that their actions are no longer exempt from discipline.

In the Metro, Daniel Lublin provides a workplace privacy cheat sheet to help employees navigate through any uncertainty.  Here are a few key points from the topics he covers in the article:

Medical History: Employers do not have the right to your entire medical history.  When requesting leave, all you need to provide is your date of return and required accommodations.

Facebook and Twitter: Online comments, whether done at home or in the workplace hold the potential for discipline, so be mindful of what you post.

References: “When you provide the name of a reference to a prospective employer, you implicitly provide permission to contact him or her” and will likely be unsuccessful in suing over an unfavourable reference.

Surveillance: Hidden cameras and surveillance are allowable if there is a reasonable basis to justify it.

Workplace Computers: Though employees lack privacy on workplace computers, a recent Ontario ruling indicates that employers have no right to information on personal devices given to employees.  (Read more about this decision *here*)

If you still have questions about workplace privacy or are concerned about whether your actions could lead to dismissal, contact Whitten and Lublin.

“The workplace no longer has traditional borders”

| April 19th, 2011 | No Comments »

Those were the words of employment lawyer Daniel Lublin in an article titled, “Keep personal online use separate from business.”  Many companies have come to the realization that policy on computer use requires constant attention.  Many employees have discovered this to be true as well, but not before losing their jobs. 

Here are a few reasons to help understand why:

  • Much like neglecting to clock out for breaks, excessive online “breaks” can be considered time theft and lead to dismissal with cause.
  • Emails can often lead to dismissal if they are offensive or harassing in nature.  Depending on the severity of the actions, Lublin says that employees could “end up surfing the classifieds for a criminal defence lawyer, as well as for a new job”.
  • Reckless Facebook, Twitter, and blog postings can all lead to discipline and often dismissal.

The good news is that there are things you can do to continue surfing the web at work.  First, although it seems simple enough, treat your workplace computer like your workplace computer.  Although some workplaces may allow company-provided devices to be used for personal use, you should review company policy and always assume you are being monitored. Lublin suggests ensuring “that personal Internet use away from the office does not intersect with your job. This applies equally to the use of PDAs, BlackBerrys, Twitter, blogs and Facebook.”  With a little common sense you should be able to ensure that your latest online exploits don’t end up on HR’s desk.

Sheridan College Deletes IT Support Staff

| March 17th, 2011 | No Comments »

Napster, Kazaa, Limewire, Torrents, Streaming Video – Many people have been bitten by the “freeware” bug over the years and will do just about anything to satiate their downloading itch.  For one employee, it was worth losing his job.

Daniel Lublin writes about this case in the Metro article, “The hazards of personal use on workplace computers”.  Steve Rowe, an employee of Sheridan College, worked in IT support for 12 years with a spotless record of employment and one of the highest paying jobs in the department.  A network audit found discrepancies that led to the discovery that Rowe had been using the school’s network to download large amounts of music, video games and pornography. What’s more is that he had given at least 11 other friends access to his media cache.  Rowe was dismissed shortly after the discovery, but questioned whether or not the college had overreacted.  Courts will normally give employees the benefit of the doubt when considering whether lesser actions could have been taken, but Rowe’s termination was upheld on the basis that he had breached the necessary trust his employer required. 

Do you fancy yourself a sleuth when it comes to evading the powers that be while using your workplace computer? Do you toggle back and forth between applications when you see your boss in the distance?  Lublin cautions employees not to be fooled into thinking that “their actions will be immune from discipline as decision makers are becoming increasingly aware of the damage computer misuse can cause and they are often unwilling to tolerate it.”