It’s never been easier, because of your use of employer-owned devices, for your bosses to track you. And while courts have ruled that employers can legally monitor how their devices are being used, it doesn’t mean your employer can use that information as a basis to harass or fire you.
Either way, be supremely mindful of your digital tracks and the personal and career damage they can cause. Even if your bosses say they don’t track you, you should err on the side of caution and assume they do. They may not be telling the truth. Or they may be misinformed themselves. Virtually all the employers I sue are using software to capture information about device usage and locations. And it’s a fact of life that when supervisors need a reason to fire you, they’ll head straight for those device logs and records, whether it’s legal for them to do so or not. Monitoring software cleverly combines all kinds of information – GPS coordinates, phone books, business addresses, property records – to prepare detailed reports about the devices. If you spent the night at someone’s home and had a company phone with you, the report will show – based on GPS coordinates and public property-ownership records – the address, the owner’s name, and how long the phone remained in that location. If another employee was also at the house, such software reports that Employee X’s phone was at the same address all night. (Just for fun, if you want to see how programs can so easily track you, download the FollowMee app for your Android or iPhone, let it gather data for a week and then run a report showing your exact coordinates and how long you spent everywhere, to the second.)
These are things employees don’t think about – or even believe – until it’s too late. I’ve represented employees who had no idea their digital tracks played a role in their firing until I discovered it during a lawsuit.
What can an employer learn about you? Lots. These reports can reveal who you live with, who you date, whether you drink, what kind of diseases you have (based on address information when you visit a medical specialist), whether you’re interviewing for another job, and whether you engage in activities your boss considers unseemly or contrary to its interests. Maybe your boss has a romantic interest in you and uses reports to “coincidentally” run into you. I’ve had employees tell me that.
- Never use employer-owned devices if you have the option. Use your own devices, and don’t ask your employer to reimburse you. Reimbursement allows the company to make a claim that it has an ownership interest in your device. If you must use a company-provided cellphone or computer, you should still get your own for personal purposes. When not on the clock, leave the employer devices at the house or hotel.
- Leave the company car at home, or at the hotel if you’re traveling. Employer vehicles almost always have GPS devices. These devices link latitude/longitude data with Google Maps and public records to reveal the exact names and addresses of every person and business you visited and the time spent at each location. Leave the vehicle behind. Get off your employer’s digital grid. Take Uber or Lyft.
Have You Already Been The Victim of Employer Digital Surveillance?
You may have the right to sue an employer who used your digital trail to harass, discipline or fire you. Even if your employer had the right to monitor device usage, it may have used the information it gained in an illegal way. To use just one example, it would violate your rights if your employer secretly decided to fire you because you were diagnosed with cancer, something it learned because your phone’s GPS data showed that you suddenly began visiting an oncologist several times a month.
If you feel your rights have been violated and that your employer’s digital surveillance may have played a role, talk to an employee rights lawyer. There are often telltale signs that surveillance was used against you. Perhaps your boss made an offhand comment about a confidential medical issue, a meeting you had at headquarters, or a trip you took to meet with a competitor about a new job. Maybe your boss had been sexually harassing you and was using digital logs to track your dating and social activities. Or maybe the action taken against you came immediately (and suspiciously) after a sensitive event. I use dozens of techniques to uncover the misuse of digital records. The truth always comes out.
Employee Rights Lawyer, Florida & Georgia