Google released a new program last week called Latitude. You can get full details here, but the gist of it is that can show your location (and the location of your friends) real-time on a map. So, suppose you and your teenager have cell-phones — voila, you can see on a map where they are and vice-versa, all in real-time.
I’ve been using the program for a few days on my Blackberry Bold and find it both amazing and scary at the same time. Amazing, in that I can see where my family members are at any time. And scary for that same reason.
As with any new technology, there’s the risk of misuse. GPS tracking has been available for sometime, but never in such a consumer-friendly format. In the past, companies might spend tens of thousands of dollars fitting their fleet of trucks and cars with such devices to ensure that their employees are where they should be; this new technology could lower the cost to virtually nothing. Latitude isn’t perfect, but it is now another tool that employers have at their disposal.
A few other employment-related blogs today have also started discussing the implications in the workplace (which you can find here and here.)
Employers in Connecticut, however, have particular rules to follow, mainly in the form of the Electronic Monitoring Act.
I first discussed the act in a post way back in October 2007:
[C]an an employer in Connecticut conduct electronic monitoring of its employees? The answer is a definite yes. But, of course, the answer is a bit more complicated. Connecticut has an electronic monitoring statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-48d, that allows for such monitoring if (with very limited exceptions) the employees have prior written notice of such monitoring.
To provide the notice, the employer must indicate the types of monitoring which may occur, such as telephonic, key strokes, general computer usage, etc. Each employer must post this in a conspicuous place (typically, where an employer has its other "bulletin board" notices, like the minimum wage rate). Putting a reference in an employee handbook is also a wise precaution in case the notice ever gets removed from the board (and it should be noted that notice in a handbook is likely sufficient under the terms of the statute.) .
If an employer does not routinely monitor employees the employer can still conduct the monitoring in situations where "(A) an employer has reasonable grounds to believe that employees are engaged in conduct which (i) violates the law, (ii) violates the legal rights of the employer or the employer’s employees, or (iii) creates a hostile workplace environment."
So for employers, posting the notice (which you can download for free from the DOL website here) is key but educating employees about the tracking may be just as important. And understand that simply the process of providing notice to your employees may serve as an effective deterrent.
Of course, there will be some who will find such tracking an invasion of their privacy and many employers will find such tracking completely unnecessary. Where the proper balance lies between privacy and oversight of an employee’s performance is a question that only you — as an employer — can answer.