10 NEW (AND LEGAL) WAYS AGENCIES CAN SPY ON EMPLOYEES

A union not only works on current employee problems, but also looks ahead to looming ones. Agency spying on employees (or monitoring, if you want to be polite) is one of those looming problems because of the many technological advances constantly boosting agency capabilities. We recently ran across an article on another blog listing the new technological workplace spying mechanisms that we thought you would enjoy. Check it out. Below are some ideas unions can pursue at the bargaining table to protect employees from future spying/monitoring/tracking advances.

Demand that–

  • if management uses spying/monitoring equipment, that it notify employees regularly that they are being tracked and how, e.g. phones and copying equipment should have notices on them if monitored—and what they are being monitored for;
  • if the agency is looking for certain things, such as the mention of specific key words that might suggest potential violence or even harassment that employees be informed of the trigger words in advance;
  • the union be told of all systems currently in place and before any changes/upgrades/additions to them (The union has the right to bargain over the impact and implementation of them before they are activated);
  • the agency give the union copies of the tech manual for the equipment/software so that it can fully understand what the system is capable of doing and usage options the agency has;
  • the agency give the union access to standard monitoring reports the agency gets, e.g., if the agency gets reports on how often employees access web sites unrelated to agency business, maybe the union will find that useful as well;
  • monitoring be done in a fair and equitable manner, e.g., subject unit employees to nothing more than done to non-unit and managerial employees, a monitoring plan that produces a reasonable sample of employee behavior, etc.;
  • the agency disclose whether it retains the right to shift from random monitoring to targeted spying with or without reasonable cause;
  • the agency install some pre-monitoring safeguard to protect against targeting, harassment or retaliation;
  • the agency agree not to spy on union activities, e.g., employees contacting the union or union office communications, e.g., who enters the union office, calls it, sends it emails, etc;
  • the agency provide spying-free zones in the workplace where employees can go to copy something to help the union, talk to one another, access personal data via the Internet, etc.;
  • the agency declare what it is doing in bathrooms, health units, etc.;
  • the agency disclose what records will be kept, how, where, for how long, and the usage rules;
  • the agency give the union easy access to monitoring data in connection with making future bargaining demands or working grievances, e.g., how often employees are making calls unrelated to business each day; and
  • the agency reveal what records will be kept and under what protections, e.g., Privacy Act, FOIA, etc.

Another step the union should take is to consult an attorney whenever it suspects the agency may have overstepped its bounds because the Constitution as well as various laws prohibit agencies from monitoring certain behavior.

About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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