What should a company consider in deciding whether to engage in electronic workplace monitoring of employees?

Companies, concerned with the abuse of workplace technologies, are increasingly considering electronic monitoring programs.  Motivating considerations include the prospect of liability for sexual harassment lawsuits arising from inappropriate emails or web site usage, concerns about employee transfers of proprietary company data to unauthorized recipients, or the loss of productivity from employee web usage.

Before deciding to engage in monitoring, companies should consider whether the cure might be worse than the problem.  For example, undertaking monitoring as a means for avoiding harassment claims may have the opposite effect if an employer becomes aware of a potential problem and fails to act.  The specter of monitoring can also have a negative impact on employee morale.

If an employer decides to proceed with monitoring, it should provide employees with notice that monitoring will take place prior to initiating monitoring.  This is required by law in some states, such as Connecticut, and is a good practice even if not required by law.  Notice should be through a written policy or computer sign-on notification, to avoid legal claims.  Finally, monitoring should not be undertaken without consulting legal counsel.