Employee Privacy is No Laughing Matter: Issues Facing Companies Can Prove Costly

Unless it is part of your company policy it is unlikely your managers would think to share salary information between employees. Indeed, such a practice would be shocking to many employees who regard this information as a matter of personal privacy and don’t want it spread all over the office. Likewise, HIPAA and other laws prohibit employers from sharing health information about employees who take leave. Those same employees expect that their personal matters are only to be shared by themselves when they choose to do so.

Although these concepts seem simple, more than ever employers are failing to take adequate training steps to ensure that employee personal information is safeguarded. Indeed, although technological advances have streamlined human resources administrative matters, thereby simplifying record keeping practices, they have also exposed employee personal information and data on far too many occasions.

In a bygone era, mountains of paper housed employee information. This information was frequently kept in locked file cabinets in or near the human resources manager or other administrative professional’s office. With the transition to online data storage, the revelation of extremely personal employee details is as simple as a mistaken “reply all” to an email. No policy is going to prevent this type of privacy breach. Indeed, the only manner of reducing the risk is to engage in active, online employee privacy training to teach everyone the proper methods of safeguarding employee data. Admittedly, just because managers and employees are required to take a course in employee privacy does not mean that they are going to be 100% effective, but at least there is precedent within the office that your company is serious about protecting employee privacy, and your employees will be armed with the proper tactics to make their data and information as safe as humanly possible.

Compounding the problem of implementing adequate online activity procedures is the National Labor Relations Board. Although most employers think of the NLRB in union-labor settings, it is an broad-reaching government agency that is beginning to attempt to regulate policies in non-union settings by claiming that certain privacy and social media policies violate employees’ right to concerted activity. Although you may be making policies attempting to safeguard employee privacy by restricting online activity and access you may actually be violating the law!

Because employee privacy is a complicated area of the law without any true guidance other than case law it is extremely important that you schedule focused, online training courses to put your managers and employees in the right frame of mind to protect employee information. By taking the user through real-life scenarios he or she is better able to understand the reasons behind the policies in place and will feel more comfortable with the policies for protection of employee information.

Syntrio can help train your managers on the nuances of employee privacy protection that will help formulate effective policies that keep you compliant with the law, and at the forefront of compliance. Contact Syntrio for more information and remember to follow us on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance issues that may impact your business!


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