Do Schools and Employers Have Right to Monitor Off Duty and Private Time?


Over the past few years, we seen a growing number of instances where public school administrators have disciplined students for things they say and do away from school on their own time. School officials monitor students’ social media sites and police reports.

I wrote about Erin Cox who was disciplined by her school for picking up a friend from a party because the friend had been drinking. Just after Cox arrived at the party to get her friend, the police arrived and began making arrests. One of the police officers wrote in his report that Cox had not been drinking and was cleared of doing anything wrong. When the school found out Cox was found at the scene, they took disciplinary action against her, just for keeping a friend from driving after drinking. Cox was demoted from team captain of the school’s volleyball team and was suspended from the next five games.

Many students and parents have been questioning whether or not schools have the right to invade the personal lives of their students away from schools. Courts have ruled on both sides of the issue, making it a very confusing legally gray area.

Now there are apps for smart phones that can track a person’s location and activity at school, work and on their own personal time. Some employers are using these apps to keep track of their employees activities while on the job, especially those who travel on the job. But do those employers have the right to use the apps to monitor what employees are dong or where they are on their own time?

That’s the question behind a lawsuit filed by Myrna Arias of California. Arias worked for Intermex, an international money express wire transfer service. While working at Internex, Arias had the Xora app (now called ClickSoftware) on her smart phone. The app allowed Intermex and Arias’ boss John Stubits to track her movements. The problem for Arias was that Stubits boasted of being able to track her movements 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

According to a report:

“Arias said that when she and her fellow employees asked Stubits if he could track them when they weren’t working, Stubits, ‘admitted that employees would be monitored while off duty and bragged that he knew how fast she was driving at specific moments ever since she had installed the app on her phone.’”

“According to the suit, Arias didn’t have a problem with the app tracking her while she was working, but didn’t want it doing so when she was off. Doing so, Arias said, amounted to an invasion of privacy.”

Consequently, Arias deleted the app from her smart phone and claims that Stubits fired her for doing so. In her lawsuit, she is asking for lost wages and punitive damages.

I understand an employer’s need to track and monitor employees in today’s world of corruption, theft, lying and who knows what else. Years ago before all of the electronics we have today, I fired a number of employees for stealing money from cash registers and merchandise from the stores.

But does an employer or school official have the legal right to use social media and apps like Xora to track and monitor employees and students private lives? Don’t we have certain rights to privacy anymore? The NSA has been in hot water for tracking our phone calls and emails because it violates our right to privacy. Shouldn’t the same laws apply to employers and schools?

With the constant advancement in technology, we are quickly entering into a world like that of George Orwell’s 1984 with Big Brother watching and listening to everything we say and do. Sadly, as the technologies continue to advance, I believe that more and more of our privacy will continue to disappear until we truly live in a 100% Big Brother world.

 

 

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