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Is Your Employer Tracking Your Movements Through Your Company Cell Phone?

Image from pricenfees.com

Republicans Squash Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter’s Attempt To Provide Real Privacy To Workers.

Not long ago when you left the office for the day that meant that you were done for the day.  Then came pagers and cell phones, where you could be immediately contacted even when you were not at work.  Then came smartphones and the ability to check work related emails from anywhere in the world.  Now many employers provide a smartphone for their workers to allow them to check their message outside of normal work hours.

Pew Research reports that nearly 70% of workers use their smartphone or Personal Digital Assistant (PDA / Tablet) to check work related emails over the weekend.  However providing employees with a smartphone also allows employers to track employee’s movements with the phone’s built in GPS.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) disagreed with employers being able to track employees phones when they are not working . There is no federal privacy law protecting workers from their employers tracking them.  Currently only a handful of states even have protections.

“It is reasonable to imagine legitimate business purposes for using GPS tracking technology during business hours – while an employee is carrying out their work responsibilities. It is simply wrong, however, that this tracking should carry over into the employee’s personal time – into their personal life. Certainly, not all employers would take advantage in this way, but the fact that there is no privacy law to protect employees from such behavior is indefensible,” said Shea-Porter.

Shea-Porter proposed an amendment to the so-called ‘Employee Privacy and Protection Act’ that is currently being marked-up in the House Education and Workforce Committee that she is a member of.

The so-called ‘Employee Privacy and Protection Act’ was one of three anti-worker bills considered during today’s markup, that would further tilt the playing field against workers seeking to bargain for better wages and working conditions. Since Republicans took control of the House in 2011, they have convened 28 hearings and markups in the Committee on Education and the Workforce aimed at undermining workers’ rights to bargain for a better life, replacing the once bipartisan recognition of the central role of workers in the American economy and democracy with relentless partisan attacks.

“My amendment seeks to improve this situation by offering a basic level of privacy protection for the employees of businesses that seek to use the lopsided process established under this bill,” she added.

However, partisanship in the committee prevailed over the privacy of workers and the amendment failed.

It is ironic that Shea-Porter’s amendment to the ‘Employee Privacy and Protection Act’ was rejected as the basis of the bill is “to protect workers privacy” by prohibiting employers from providing personal contact information about their employees to union organizers.

It is obvious that this bill is more about blocking union organizing efforts and less about workers privacy.

NH Legislatiors Katherine Rogers and Peter Sullivan Work To Keep Your Work Out Of Your Facebook Account

Have you ever applied for a job and as part of the job interview they asked you to supply you social media passwords?  Could you imagine if they did?

You do not have to imagine it because it does happen every day.  What is worse is that some  people are being fired for posting comments about their work on Facebook.

In October of 2012 the NLRB ruled in favor of the employee after he was wrongfully fired for posting negative comments about his employer.

“The National Labor Relations Board has found that the firing of a BMW salesman for photos and comments posted to his Facebook page did not violate federal labor law, because the activity was not concerted or protected.” (1)

The NLRB also ruled in favor of the employee after he was fired for comments while off the clock.

“The case—Hispanics United of Buffalo—started one Saturday morning in 2010. That was when domestic violence advocate Mariana Cole-Rivera took to Facebook to complain that one of her co-workers was unfairly accusing fellow employees of laziness. Several other staffers at Hispanics United of Buffalo chimed in to say they worked plenty hard already. Soon after Cole-Rivera and her co-workers returned to work, HUB fired five of them, arguing that their off-the-clock comments had violated the nonprofit’s anti-harassment policy. (2)”

The good thing that has come from these cases is that, time and time again, the NRLB is ruling in favor of the employees right to free speech on their personal accounts.  However none of these cases involve those people who are applying for a job. (It is very hard to fight back against your employer when your not actually their employee.)

Hopefully that will all change. Many states including New Hampshire are trying to pass laws that specifically address the growing concern over social media accounts.

“Rep. Peter Sullivan, D-Manchester, wants to bar employers from requiring an employee – or prospective one – to disclose social media passwords.”

Sullivan stated: “I think it’s better to make a statement at the outset that no, this is not something that’s appropriate.” (3)

The bill’s co-sponsor Katherine Rogers told the NH Union Leader that companies could potentially use Facebook to skirt current laws.

“Many people use sites such as Facebook to update family and friends about personal issues, Rogers noted. The risk is that potential employers could find out information that they are legally barred from asking job applicants about, such as age, race, weight or medical conditions.”

I think this is a fabulous idea. This is a prime example of legislators working to protect the people from potential harm.  Jut think of the pictures, comments, and links you have shared since you joined Facebook?

I look forward to seeing this bill pass through the NH Legislature.

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