Employer Surveillance Increases

April 23, 2001 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - More than three-quarters of American employers are now keeping tabs on their employees, twice the number just four years ago, according to a new survey. More than a quarter (27%) have fired workers for misuse of e-mail or the Internet.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of employers report some disciplinary action for those actions, according to the 2001 AMA Survey on Workplace Monitoring and Surveillance. In addition,

  • nearly two-thirds now monitor worker Internet connections, up from 54% a year ago
  • 47% – store and review employee e-mail, more than last year’s 38%
  • 40% – block Internet connections to unauthorized or inappropriate sites, compared with 29% in 2000

Active Engagement

Other active measures undertaken by employers include:

  • 36% – storing and reviewing computer files
  • 15% – video recording of employees on the job
  • 12% – recording and reviewing telephone messages
  • 8% – storing and reviewing voice mail (8%).

Nearly half (43%) are tracking phone numbers called and time spent on the phone, while nearly 1 in 5 are logging computer time.

Employer Rationale

Employers offer a variety of rationales for expanding the reach of such potential intrusions, including:

  • Legal compliance ? especially for regulated industries, such as financial services or telemarketing
  • Legal liability ? workers who are exposed to offensive graphic or sensitive materials on co-worker computer screens may charge an employer with maintaining a hostile work environment
  • Performance review ? monitoring and evaluation of customer service personnel are necessary to evaluate and improve job performance
  • Security concerns ? protection of proprietary information, as well as the physical safety of workers

The survey’s authors note that most responding firms conduct surveillance on an occasional, rather than ongoing, basis. Furthermore, nearly all responding companies engaging in these practices inform their employees.

The AMA survey of 1,627 organizations focused on large and mid-sized firms and does not represent an accurate sampling of U.S. businesses overall. The sample does reflect practices among its members and client firms, who together employ over one-fourth of the American workforce.

A summary of the 2001 AMA Survey: Workplace Monitoring & Surveillance is at http://www.amanet.org/research .