Protection of Employee Privacy Interests in The Workplace

In general, employees don’t have the expectation of privacy at work if employers educate them about their workplace privacy rights and inform them of the company’s monitoring and surveillance policies. Nevertheless, state and federal laws limit the ability of employers to invade their employees’ privacy. Likewise, employers must know how to balance their employees’ privacy rights and their own need for information to avoid negative repercussions.

Medical Privacy

California law provides stringent requirements for protecting employees’ medical information. Depending on the employer’s business, they can only collect medical information about the applicant’s capability to perform particular job duties. The state also has strict requirements when employers may mandate drug tests.

Social Media Privacy

Employers cannot request or require their employees or applicants to provide their social media passwords and usernames. They are, however, permitted to keep track of their employees’ social media accounts.


Whether employees have a right to privacy during searches would depend on what employers specifically need to search. For instance, an employee’s bag is considered more private than an employee’s locked work desk, which, in turn, is considered more private than a shared or unlocked desk. Additionally, if an employer gives notice to the employer that they may be searched or the employee consents to the search, this will not be considered an invasion of privacy.

Employee Monitoring and Surveillance

Employers can lawfully monitor virtually anything their employees do at work provided that there exists a legitimate business interest in the monitoring processes and that interest outweighs the privacy rights of employees. In general, employers can monitor their employees’ workplace communications, monitor computer and phone usage, read work emails and postal mails, and use GPS, among others.

Background Checks and The Ban The Box Law

Employers can check an applicant’s criminal history before hiring them. But this right comes with several crucial limitations. An employer’s decision to not hire an applicant based on their criminal history must be specifically linked to the job offer, which means that their criminal history indicates that the applicant could be a legitimate liability when hired for that specific job position.

Likewise, employers are not usually allowed to consider arrest records when deciding whether to hire an employee. They also can’t view expunged crimes or those that have been removed from an applicant or employee’s criminal record. Moreover, under the Ban the Box law, employers must remove questions regarding criminal history from applications and delay background checks after an applicant has been given a fair chance to present their qualifications. 

Seek Legal Guidance From a Skilled California Employment Lawyer Today

As you can see, there are various considerations involved when ensuring employee privacy in the workplace. But if you follow the rules and your company policies comply with all the legal requirements, you don’t have to worry. If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach out to the Kaufman McAndrew LLP law office. Schedule your appointment with our California employment lawyer by calling 818-788-5767 or reaching us online.