Although employers generally possess a significant degree of latitude with regard to maintaining the integrity of company products, monitoring the productivity of employees, and ensuring a safe worksite, employers must balance such interests with the interests of their employees to maintain a degree of privacy.
Whether an employee's alleged privacy “rights” are grounded in a constitutional or statutory provision or simply in corporate culture expectations, employers should always weigh their “need to know” with the employee's reasonable expectation of privacy. In doing so, not only will a more respectful and productive working relationship naturally result, but costly and needless litigation of employee privacy claims will be avoided.
Practice tip: It is important to remember that employees have only a reasonable expectation of privacy. Employers can lower the threshold of what is considered reasonable by developing a clear policy addressing workplace privacy issues and communicating the policy to their employees.