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The Right To Privacy In the Workplace

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A workplace is an area or location that could either be temporary or permanent where workers undertake work-related duties.  Workplace privacy could be described as the freedom of being left alone to exercise personal privacy without any invasion.  Today, privacy has become one of the major issues of concern and in many countries, their laws have not been able to constantly keep pace with the advances in technology hence many gaps are left open in issues of protection.  However, in other countries, the laws have been able to provide the adequate need of privacy both to employees and the employers (www.privacyinternational.org/survey/phr2000/ threats.htm.).

            Individuals’ expectations concerning their privacy has been a major blow to them since the practices of work organizations have abused this privacy, hence leaving them ex posed to all forms of privacy invasion.  The major types include; internet monitoring and filtering, drug testing, personality and psychological testing, Email monitoring, key stroke logging, closed-circuit video monitoring, phone monitoring among others.

Employers on the other hand perform monitoring activities on their employees in order to identify and look for alternatives to address any security risks, harassments especially sexually and to ensure that their employees perform their duties at acceptable standards.  Performing these activities may however diminish and ruin employees’ dignity, morale and also accelerate the rate of worker stress. (www.hrhero.com/sample/trialworkplaceviolence.pdf).

            The right to privacy plays a crucial role in America although it is not explicitly protected by the American constitution. These privacy rights are essential since they guarantee individuals rights to lead a private life.  The United States Supreme Court defines privacy as the individuals’ right to control spread of information about them.  In United States of America, government instruction is protected by constitutional privacy whereas tort law guards any private parties’ invasion on privacy rights (www.hrhero.com/sample/trialworkplaceviolence.pdf)

            Workplace violence is also a common phenomenon consisting of physical assault on individual’s, suicides, verbal abuse, beatings, rapes obscene phone calls, threats that cause psychological traumas among others. Examples of violence by employees include; job stress, personality conflicts, financial stress, job dispute with co-workers, adverse employment decisions, influence of drugs or alcohol or even other mental or emotional problems. On the other hand, violence could also be caused by outsiders to those in the workplace.  Such violence include: domestic violence and jealousy, patient behavior moral protests, sexual harassment crimes and client frustration (www.hrhero.com/sample/trialworkplaceviolence.pdf)

            As a result of violation of these privacy rights, there has emerged a growing conflict in the modern world between the need for information and the individuals’ right to privacy.  In the employment context, organizations have argued that they require substantial information concerning the individuals for instance, on job applicants to enable them make decisions so as to acquire qualified personnel who fit for the job.  They acquire this information by investigating their educational background, credit, medical history and personality (Schminke, 1998).

            The advances in technology have also resulted in the growing conflicts concerning privacy.  This can be seen through the proliferation of computer networks and also databases which has resulted into employees accessing individuals’ data.  This could be a major set back especially if the individual uses these data to unfairly discriminate other employees and this could adversely affect the ambition of achieving their goals. Personal information could easily be accessed through the use of integrated information system that easily give decision makers access to individuals’ private information such as arrest records, medical data, family background and credit history.  This also enables organizations to share and spread this information around the workplace (Schminke, 1998).

            Consumer privacy has also been invaded since the individual consumers have got no avenue for protecting their private needs.  The government of the United States in its power has failed to develop standards necessary to protect the rights of consumers regarding their privacy.  For instance in 2000, it banned cookies from sites belonging to government (www.informit.cm/article.asp).

            Violation of privacy is still a major issue of concern even with the existence of legal and other protection bodies. Organizations have often flaunted laws, gathering and spreading around personal information hence invading individuals’ privacy.  For instance in United States, despite the existence of the law regarding information on consumer credit, you find that most organizations and companies are collecting these information with the aim of marketing and selling it to banks and vice versa.  Moreover lack of security on personal information in many countries has resulted into disclosing a lot of customers’ records accidentally.  Therefore it is obvious that information technology is spreading so fast as a result of its speed, power and capacity and this corresponds to the high degree of privacy invasion (www.privacyinternational.org/survey/phr2000/threats.html).

            Since employers have new means to get any information concerning employees, the new means should be able to provide a reevaluation of fairness in the relationships involving the employee and employer.  However, many workers have been subjects of arbitrary discharges from their employees since they are not protected.  Therefore the absence of a state law often leads to the dismissal of employees by their employers even if false information about them was issued to the employers (www.publaw.com/privacy.html).

            Employees in United States are given limited privacy protections just like many other developing countries.  Few instances arise whereby they are given the rights to inspect access or even argue out the information that is in possession by their employers.  In addition, there exist state and federal laws that deny these employees the right to issue a polygraph examination. In addition, protections regarding workplace diversity are absent except in cases where an employer tortuously violates the employees privacy (www.informit.com/articles/articles.asp?26341).

            These federal and state laws regarding job safely also require that employers have to make some amount of efforts that will eventually result in a safe workplace and this could be done through taking huge steps in trying to reduce or eliminate risk concerning violence.  For instance in the health care industry, California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH),  The Federal Occupation Safety and Health among other agencies have been on the move to offer guidelines concerning night retail establishments and other health care operations.  The guidelines are formulated to assist employers in fighting violence and also bring up any problems that could have been ignored.  Moreover, these employers could also be liable for any negligence in cases where they ignore to carry out care in avoiding any violence that might arise (www.hrhero.com/sample/trialworkplaceviolence.pdf).

            Job description laws of the federal and state provide for the implementation of the anti-harassment policies by employers allowing them to take the necessary actions concerning harassment, such harassment include racial or sexual forms of harassment and they could result in compensation or punitive damages.  Another federal law may also expose these employers for any violence that is gender motivated  (www.hrhero.com/sample/trialworkplaceviolence.pdf).

            Apart from these federal and state laws, a number of publicity funded nonprofit organizations have also emerged with the objective of fighting privacy rights concerning consumers.  These organizations include: The Online Privacy Alliance (OPA), BBB Online, TRUSTe, Electronic Information Privacy Organization, Federal Trade Commission and Privacy International among others (Schminke, 1998).

            The Online Privacy Alliance (OPA) consists of a group of Associations and corporations whose main aim is to promote initiatives concerning online privacy.  It calls for less government intervention into privacy issues and advances for self-regulation of one’s privacy.  The organization has other members such as Microsoft Company, Verizon, IBM, Sun Microsystems and the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts.  The organization also issues news reports on privacy and promotes awareness to consumers and companies by providing resources on privacy issues. Companies are also provided with guidelines that help them define their private policies (Schminke, 1998). The companies are also given a framework for enforcing self-regulation and these guidelines have also become the basis for formulation of the policy regarding privacy.

BBB Online on the other hand has a mission of promoting trust and confidence to consumers on the internet through its programs namely the BBB Online Reliability and BBB Online Privacy. It also includes certification programs such as Kids Privacy Seal, Reliability Seal Program and The Privacy Seal Program.  These programs are available to all web-sites that can get and show them as a way of promoting privacy to consumers and hence they will have some confidence regarding the trustworthiness of the Web site (Schminke, 1998).

            In conclusion, it is therefore important that the right to privacy in workplace is looked into and this takes the efforts of both the state and the individuals.  The advances in technology that has caused major conflicts concerning privacy should also be a matter of concern in that organizations should be able to effectively keep pace with technology advances and also establish guidelines concerning the privacy of both employees and the employers.


EPIC/PI – Privacy & Human Rights 2000. Accessed on 12, July 2007 from www.privacyinternational.org/survey/phr2000/threats.html

Privacy Organizations and Initiatives > Privacy Organizations. Accessed on 12 July 2007 from www.informit.com/articles/article.asp?=26341

Right To Privacy in The Workplace in The Information Age. Accessed on 12 July 2007 from www.pub/aw.com/Privacy.htm.

Schminke, M., (1998) Managerial Ethics: Moral Management of People and Processes.

Lawrence Erlbaum. Associates. ISBN 0805824928

Workplace Violence & Employer Liability. Accessed on 12 July 2007 from www.hrhero.com/sample/trial/workplaceviolence.pdf.

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