With some limitations, employers have the legal right to monitor an employee's telephone calls, voice mails and text messages without the employees' knowledge (see "Tips" section for exceptions in the law). Most employers will notify employees that monitoring takes place, usually in employee handbooks, memos or at staff meetings. However, this is not always the case.
You may not find out that your employer has been keeping tabs on you until it comes time for your annual evaluation or when you get in trouble for violating workplace rules. To be on the safe side, always assume that your office and employer-issued cell phone are being monitored and conduct yourself accordingly.
- Skill level:
Listen for clicks, beeps, static or other noise on the line. While these are not always a foolproof method to detect phone monitoring, many recording devices make telltale noises that alert you to your call being recorded.
Inform your supervisor if you experience unusually low call volume, batteries running down faster than normal or if your employer-issued cell phone feels extra hot when it is not in use. These are often signs of cell phone spying.
Place your employer-issued wireless phone next to your car or home stereo speakers and listen for a buzzing or beeping tone. While a short-lasting "beep-beep-beep" sound is normal (even when the phone is turned off), beeping tones that last longer than a few seconds are abnormal and often a sign that your phone is under surveillance.
Take notice if your employer-issued cell phone powers up by itself or does not turn off when you hit the "power" button. This often indicates the phone is being tapped or that spy software has been covertly installed.
Ask your employer to issue you a new cell phone or extension if you experience any of the above-listed problems. Should these issues persist with a new phone, you can be reasonably sure your employer is keeping tabs on you.
Inform your employer if you feel the company has overstepped their legal rights. While employers may legally monitor your work-related phone calls, text messages and e-mails, they are not allowed to eavesdrop on your personal or private phones or computers.
Tips and warnings
- In general, employers may monitor calls with customers for reasons of quality control. However, California state law requires that all parties be informed that the conversation is recorded or monitored.
- Federal law, which regulates phone calls across state lines, does allow employers to use unannounced monitoring for business-related calls.
- You may wish to invest in a commercial bug sweeper or detector if you suspect your private calls are being monitored.
- Your employer may legally use GPS tracking devices in your company-issued cell phone to monitor your actual location while you are on the job.
- As a general rule, do not use your employer's phone to make private calls. Place these calls from your home phone or have a personal cell phone for this purpose.
- If you discover that your employer has illegally intercepted your private phone conversations, you do have the right to initiate legal action. Report nosy employers to your State Board of Labor. Contact local law enforcement or the FBI to report wiretaps. You may also want to retain an attorney to file a civil lawsuit; you can often win financial damages if the court finds your privacy was invaded.
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