Magazine article Risk Management

Protecting Employer Rights: RIMS Defends Legitimate Use of Surveillance

Magazine article Risk Management

Protecting Employer Rights: RIMS Defends Legitimate Use of Surveillance

Article excerpt

Although questions about employee monitoring have attracted considerable attention recently, RIMS has been involved in this issue for the past six years. In several instances, the U.S. Congress has considered legislation aimed at curtailing the ability of employers to monitor employees electronically in the workplace. In each instance, the proposed legislation would have prohibited certain activities that employers feel are vital to their efforts to control costs and abuses, particularly in the area of workers' compensation coverage.

In the first session of the 102nd Congress, two bills, both titled the "Privacy for Consumers and Workers Act" (H.R.1218 and S.516) were introduced in each house of Congress to address electronic monitoring by employers. The legislation would have regulated employers' use of electronic monitoring and other types of surveillance relating to employee activities. Employers would have been required, for instance, to provide advance notice in writing to employees before using any type of monitoring device. The notice would have included information such as the forms of monitoring that would be used, the data that would be collected and how that information would be used. In addition, employers would have had to notify employees that they were being monitored through the use of a signal light, beep tone or other visual or aural notice at the specific time the monitoring was taking place. Employers would have been prohibited from taking any action against an employee based upon personal data obtained through the monitoring, unless the information was relevant to the employee's work performance. The bills did, however, exempt monitoring activities conducted by law enforcement agencies during criminal investigations.

At the time, RIMS argued that the bills, as drafted, would have had a devastating impact on employers. The vague and overly broad language of the bills, for example, would have prevented employers from investigating workers' compensation claims suspected of being fraudulent, as well as from protecting commercial property against theft and damage through the use of surveillance equipment. Employers had recently begun to see the benefits of video surveillance in workers' compensation fraud investigations and it appeared as if Congress was going to eliminate this important crime-fighting tool. …

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