Confidentiality In The Workplace
No matter how small your business is, if you have 2 employees or 20, they are protected under certain confidentiality rights in the workplace. Not knowing what those are can cause an issue, especially when very small businesses tend to be tight-knit or family run.   Some of these confidentiality laws may even surprise you if you are not familiar with employment law. With ever changing and more stringent regulations on HIPAA and the storage of digital records in the healthcare industry, we thought it important to highlight some confidentiality rights in the workplace that you may not be aware of.  

Confidentiality Rights In The Workplace That Are Often Overlooked

  Dealing With Electronic Communication - This is primarily around the issue of using business phone lines for personal use. Generally, workers know this is frowned upon unless absolutely necessary, such as a family emergency. Even so, there are those who chose to use the company phones instead of stepping outside the office to use their cell phones. In this case, it is important to note what their rights are in using company phones and what your limitations are as a business in monitoring their use. The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 sets the bar on what you can and cannot do around this issue as a business owner.   You Can: Find out if they are using company phones for personal use Listen to their conversation only long enough to know if it is personal or business Record a business call for any reason Create a policy around phone use for personal reasons   You Cannot: Record a personal conversation Listen in on the entirety of a personal phone call   If you have issues with workers using your phone lines for personal use, the best way to avoid difficult conversations is to outline what is allowed and not allowed in your employee handbook. No one will be surprised that you are bringing personal call use to their attention if they know ahead of time what you are doing to prevent it.   If you do need to record business calls for training, customer experience improvement or any other reason, you should be letting your employees know ahead of time, preferably as part of the onboarding paperwork and initial employee training. This will certainly curb any extraneous phone use for personal calls and will alleviate any alarmed responses from the realization that you record calls after the fact. Specifics Around Electronic Surveillance - You can use cameras in your office for the use of protection of property and employee monitoring. That is perfectly allowable even if most people find it at least annoying to work under cameras all day. Some professions require their use for everyone’s protection, especially if the contents of your office are very valuable. To be sure, protection of your assets is your right as a business owner, but there are limitations. There are 5 states that as of 2011 have Right To Privacy Acts in place. Even if your state isn’t one of them, you should still follow their guidelines to avoid potential legal issues down the road:   You Can: Record video of your office any time of day Keep records of video for as long as you want Use the video for fact-finding should an employee issue arise Record your office or without your employees permission   You Cannot/Should Not: Put video cameras in personal spaces such as bathroom stalls or locker rooms Perform any electronic surveillance on an employee outside of the workplace Use electronic surveillance to personally investigate workers compensation claims   Asking About Genetics and/or Heritage - There are now laws that protect anyone from being discriminated against because of their genetics. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act prevents an employer from obtaining any genetic information about an employee and specifically bars them from being able to divulge that information to anyone should they become aware of any information related to it. Laws around discrimination are very strict and close attention needs to be paid to it otherwise you can unwittingly wind up in trouble.  

Obvious Confidentiality Rights In The Workplace

  It should go without saying, but anything pertaining to someone’s medical history, no matter how slight or insignificant to you, needs to be kept in the strictest of confidence. Medical Record Privacy Acts have come into place in the workplace, and business owners who do not have any HR Outsourcing solutions in place need to pay attention.   Any and all records pertaining to health insurance or other health related information must be stored in a locked desk, drawer or closet. It must be locked every time you are not in your office. No one but you must be able to access it unless their function is to help you with HR functions and they have signed a confidentiality agreement. This is not to be taken lightly. The fines around being found guilty of negligence in this area of HR Management are significant.  

Get Help With HR Management And Stop Worrying About Employment Law

There is help and it is affordable. Small businesses in every state and at every stage are working with PEO services in order to avoid the headache and liability associated with HR functions and employment law. There is no need to delay. Find out more about PEO services and put your efforts back into building a great business.

If you’d like to find out more about how PEOs can help you provide great benefits and payroll management at less than you are paying now, contact us today for a free consultation.

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