Big Brother is Watching

December 21, 2000 ( - Most human resource professionals believe employee behavior outside the workplace is none of their business, but behaviors that impact work - or the workplace - are another matter, according to a new survey.

While just 7% of respondent companies monitored employee behavior outside the workplace, nearly two-thirds (63%) felt that doing so was a violation of employee privacy if not specifically targeted at illegal activities, according to the SHRM/West Group 2000 Workplace Privacy Survey.

Private Parts

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Seventy percent of survey respondents favored protection of medical information about individual employees, as did 64% when it came to employee credit checks. An overwhelming 95% felt that way about the results of genetic testing.

However, less than a third (28%) expressed reservations about employee drug testing.

Net Difference

Less than a quarter (24%) had reservations about monitoring email usage, while only 15% thought checking Internet usage on the job was a violation of employee privacy. A somewhat larger 37% felt that phone call monitoring was intrusive.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) currently monitor Internet usage, concerned about lost productivity and inappropriate behavior.

Four percent had administered polygraphs or lie detection/voice stress analysis tests, while 61% checked employees’ criminal records and 22% conducted personality testing.

Companies are moving to tighten up the rules, with 72% now having a written policy in place regarding Internet use, 70% had one on email monitoring and a similar number on conducting employee drug tests.