Magazine article USA TODAY

Privacy Invasions Victimize Employees

Magazine article USA TODAY

Privacy Invasions Victimize Employees

Article excerpt

American workers have almost no legal protection from employers who want to poke or prod into their personal lives, maintains L. Camille Hebert, associate professor of law, Ohio State University, and author of Employee Privacy Law. "It's a discouraging situation. Workers are facing increasingly invasive tests and measures that they have to submit to in order to get or keep a job. The laws and court decisions almost uniformly favor employers."

She points out that employers have wide latitude to delve into employees' lives. They have few restrictions on conducting drug, honesty, psychological, or genetic tests of workers. In many instances, they can search the desks, offices, lockers, purses, pockets, and homes of employees for stolen property. Employers generally can fire or refuse to hire individuals on the basis of actual or rumored sexual practices or desires.

There are a patchwork of state laws" that cover aspects of employee privacy, but most don't offer much protection for workers, Hebert indicates. The few protections employees have are the result of concerns other than privacy. For example, employers are restricted in conducting AIDS tests because the results can be used to discriminate against people with a disability. …

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