TIPSHEET: Think that conversation from your office phone is private? Think again
Vanderbilt professor says Wal-Mart case calls attention to employer’s right to eavesdrop on employee calls.
News reports that a Wal-Mart employee taped telephone conversations between a New York Times reporter and other Wal-Mart employees brings to light the practice of corporations who require employees to consent to company surveillance of calls made through company systems and equipment. Wal-Mart officials have said the employee in the recently reported case was not authorized to make the recordings and added that company policy restricts monitoring of employee communications to instances in which fraud or criminal activity is suspected. However, that policy is not a requirement. “We know from recent surveys by groups such as the American Management Association and others that many firms do routinely monitor employee communications that employees might think is private, without cause of suspicion,” says Bruce Barry, professor of management and sociology. “This means workers, especially in the private sector, work under the threat that their expressive activity is being watched, which has the effect of chilling free expression that might have nothing to do with the corporation, or that might involve whistleblowing regarding corporate misbehavior.”
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