Think Before You Send That Email: Don’t Expect Privacy in the Workplace

privacy in the workplaceMost employees understand that they typically give up some privacy while at the workplace. However, most of those workers do not know to what degree their privacy rights are relinquished until they are called on the carpet for a workplace violation. They may find that their communications and actions have been under surveillance, including reading email, recording telephone conversations, reviewing voice mail, monitoring computer and internet activity and even video recording of employee actions.
As one of the most ubiquitous methods of business communication, email is frequently an issue as to privacy in the workplace. It is common for employees’ inboxes to fill up fast throughout the day, and it is common for employees to send several emails every day as part of their job duties. A few of these emails may be personal messages to and from your friends and family. You may also receive your share of unsolicited email (spam). You might forward information, a funny photo, or a good joke to a friend. Without your knowledge (because you barely looked at the email or you didn’t scroll down to look at the entire email), one of these emails contains sexual innuendo or improper language. Your friend not only gets the forwarded email, but so does your company’s IT department. The email is flagged for content and sent to your supervisor who will likely discipline or terminate you. Thinking your privacy has been violated, you find yourself on the defensive. However, much to your surprise, you find out, under federal and state law, there is little or no expectation to privacy in the workplace.
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In most cases, actions taken against private employers for invasion of privacy have not been successful. Courts have held that:

  • Employees have no legitimate expectation of privacy.
  • Employers may have legitimate reasons for monitoring employee communications, such as:
    • Employers may have to protect against computer viruses.
    • Preventing workplace harassment and bullying.
    • Reviewing and archiving communications in the case of lawsuits against the company.

Employees who, for a variety of reasons, take legal action against an employer are likely to find the employer’s surveillance of the employee’s communications and actions to be used against them by the employer. This would be the same information that the employer claims they are required to monitor and archive in case someone brings a lawsuit against the company.
Though privacy in the workplace should not be expected, it does not change the fact that every United States citizen has a right to privacy under the fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Also, there are state laws being considered and enacted all the time. Some of these laws under consideration are in response to rapidly changing communication and surveillance technologies.
With the rapid changes in the law and modern technology, legal issues regarding privacy in the workplace have become more complex. Also, employers have been known to use your lack of expectation of privacy in the workplace to intimidate, humiliate and to shield or hide workplace harassment. If you feel your employer has crossed the line when it comes to privacy in the workplace, you will need legal expertise to determine if you have an action. You should seek out an experienced employment law firm and set up a consultation immediately.

Employment Law and Pregnancy Discrimination

Telling Your Employer About Your Pregnancy
pregnancy in the workplaceWhen you are pregnant, you may wonder when and how you are going to tell your employer. The fact is under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and other laws against discrimination, you do not have to tell your employer at all. If you can perform your work and do it well, and do not need special accommodations, your pregnancy is legally irrelevant.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers with more than 15 employees from discriminating against pregnant employees.It also includes local and state government employees, federal employees, employment agency employees and labor organization employees no matter how many employees they have.
Pregnancy Discrimination and Benefits Employers must provide the same benefits to all their employees whether they are pregnant or not. This includes health insurance, retirement and disability benefits. Medical conditions related to pregnancy must be covered identically to other medical conditions.Pregnancy Discrimination and Disability If a pregnant woman can do her job for a while due to a medical condition related to her pregnancy or childbirth, the employer must treat it like any other temporarily disabled employee. This means that the employer must make accommodations or provide disability leave.More Rules on Pregnancy Discrimination

  • A potential employer may not ask a pregnant job candidate any questions they would not ask a candidate that was not pregnant.
  • An employer may not discriminate against an employee who might get pregnant.
  • An employer may not forbid a pregnant employee from doing a job for which she is fit and she wants to do.
  • Jobs must be held open for pregnancy related absence for the same amount of time as for other sickness and disability.
  • Employers cannot discriminate against an employee who has had an abortion or is considering getting an abortion.
  • Female spouses of male employees must be provided the same level of medical benefits than the male spouses of female employees.
  • Single women must be provided the same pregnancy related benefits as married women.
  • Seniority, vacation, raises, promotions and other accrued benefits for pregnant women must be granted in the same way as those on leave for non-pregnancy reasons.

If you believe you may have been a victim of pregnancy discrimination due to pregnancy, childbirth or a pregnancy related medical condition, you should consult with an employment attorney as soon as possible. A reputable employment discrimination lawyer will listen to your situation and educate you on the pregnancy discrimination laws. If you have been a victim of pregnancy discrimination  an experienced employment attorney can help you recover any damages you have incurred.

Nooses in the Workplace: A Disturbing Trend

Noose, workplace, eeoc, discriminationA noose is placed on a desk or a chair, or on a door or in a locker. The symbolism is clear. Nooses in the workplace are meant to intimidate because of race. The noose of the hangman is meant to be a frightening visual representation of the harassment that included thousands of black people who died at the hands of lynch mobs following the civil war and on into the twentieth century. This history has led to symbolic use of a noose. It has long been a tool of various hate groups. The turning up of nooses in the workplace has been having an affect on black employees, and that affect has been spilling over to affect other minorities.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) officials and law enforcement officials report on this trend. While companies routinely try to settle nooses in the workplace cases out of court, the EEOC are always pursuing dozens of such cases. The EEOC point out that, when in seen light of their overall caseload, these cases are disproportionally high.  The EEOC maintains that nooses in the workplace is a growing trend.
Every case of nooses in the workplace has its own distinctive characteristics, but there seem to be elements common to most of the cases brought forward. The noose is almost never the only method of intimidation. Racist slurs, racial epithets, racist jokes, racist graffiti and other ongoing intimidation and harassment usually accompany the noose.
discrimination suit, rascism, workplace
No one knows for sure why these racist incidents have risen lately. Some discrimination attorneys have speculated that there may be a growing intolerance by younger workers not familiar with the civil rights movement and struggles of the 1950’s and 1960’s. The incident may grow out of resentment of some whites over the implementation of affirmative action resulting in diverse workplaces where blacks and minorities were previously excluded.
Another reason cited for the rise in such incidents reported to EEOC is a growing number of employers fighting it in court. Some employers are referring to the incidents as banter and horseplay between employees without harmful intentions.Diversity, discrimination, equality, workplace
There have been some accusations of minority workers filing false claims for purpose of collecting money. Employment and discrimination attorneys generally agree that a false claim of racially related harassment, violence and misconduct in the workplace is extremely rare. History has borne out that out; there have been only a handful of false claims involving nooses in the workplace. Employment and discrimination attorneys also point out that, when subjected to scrutiny, the false claims are easily brought to light.

Long Islanders hold MLK tribute ahead of DC dedication

By: News 12 Long Island
(10/14/11) HEMPSTEAD
New York Employment AttorneyLong Islanders held a special tribute in Hempstead today ahead of Sunday’s official National Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial dedication in Washington, D.C.
The major theme of the gathering at the Antioch Baptist Church of Hempstead was Dr. King’s dream and whether it’s been realized on the Island and around the country.
Although many may feel the racism that Dr. King had fought against is now in the past, some say it is not so.
“Nassau County is still one of the most racist counties in America,” says Bishop Frank White, of the Nassau County Council of Clergy “There is still white flight when black folks move in.”
When asked what Dr. King would say about the world if he were alive today, some of the civil rights activists say he would have mixed emotions.
“We need to keep the fight and the struggle because there are still issues that need to be dealt with,” says Rev. Dr. Phillip Elliott, of Antioch Baptist Church.
Many of the people who gathered in Hempstead today say they will be at the memorial dedication Sunday.
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