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Employee monitoring: “They can read team chats?!”

A TikTok video racked up views after the poster pointed out that companies can monitor employee communication in workplace messaging apps like Microsoft Teams. The video, which has since been deleted, pointed out that it’s common for employers to monitor communication on company-issued devices.

Responses to the post included both surprise and blasé resignation, with comments such as “STOP IT THEY CAN READ TEAM CHATS?!” and “My IT person knows way too much about my dating life,” reported the website Daily Dot.

With the proliferation of remote work, and the ongoing evolution of corporate collaboration technology, it’s not surprising that employees are socializing over company systems. Many companies actively encourage such social conversations as a path to team building.

At issue for employers is whether employees need to be notified, what level of monitoring falls within their legal rights, and how monitoring could impact employee morale.

Notification: Employee surveillance laws vary by both state and the type of surveillance in question. Federally, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) prohibits monitoring of electronic messages except for legitimate business needs and when the employee has given consent.

In Massachusetts, employers have the right to monitor employees’ electronic activities related to the employer’s business, unless there’s a contract that says otherwise.

Some states, such as Connecticut and Delaware, require employers to notify employees before using monitoring software.

In California, employers must provide notification of video monitoring.

The state of New York recently enacted legislation requiring employers to provide written notice, and receive a signed acknowledgment from the employee, when monitoring will occur. Employers engaged in monitoring must also post a conspicuous notice in the workplace.

A New Jersey law, which went into effect in April 2022, requires written employee notification for vehicle monitoring, even when using company-owned vehicles.

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