Electronic Performance Monitoring: A Consideration of Rights
Maureen L. Ambrose G. Stoney Alder Terry W. Noel University of Colorado at Boulder
It's not fair. Personal rights go out the window. Aren't these monitoring practices infringing on our rights?
--Anne, monitored worker
Electronic performance monitoring (EPM) has increased significantly since the 1980s. In 1987, the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) estimated that 6 million workers were electronically monitored. By 1990, this number had grown to 10 million. In 1994, it was estimated that 20 million workers were electronically monitored ( Flanagan, 1994). The number of electronically monitored workers is expected to approach 30 million by the year 2000 ( DeTienne & Abbott, 1993). Current indications are that sales of software to monitor employees are growing 50% per year ( Flanagan, 1994). They had been expected to exceed $1 billion in 1996 ( Aiello, 1993).
With this increase has come heated debate about the appropriateness of EPM in the workplace. One dimension of this discussion involves the ethics of EPM; underlying most discussions of electronic monitoring are assumptions about employee or employer rights. In this chapter, we take a rights perspective ( Valesquez, 1992) in examining the ethics of EPM. We explicitly examine the impact of EPM on the rights of employees and employers and explore how organizations can reconcile these seemingly conflicting concerns. First, we summarize the debate between opponents and proponents of EPM; then, we discuss the rights that are relevant to EPM. Next, we describe the potential for conflict between employee and employer rights. Finally, we discuss how organizations can manage these areas of conflict.