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Industrial & Organisational : Introduction : Personnel : Organizational psychology : Occupations: Work environment: Index : Outline

Employee monitoring is the process of surveillance of employees by their employers.



See also main article: Employee monitoring software

E-mail scanning

E-mail scanning is a process in which incoming and outgoing mail passes through E-mail filtering software to search for content which may violate the policies of the employer. Often E-mails which are flagged by the filtering software will be then reviewed by a human to verify the validity of the E-mail content. Employees often consider E-mail scanning to be an invasion of privacy, but in many situations, employment contracts are written to give the employer permission to use it without legal repercussions.

Data entry, phone work, and retail

Monitoring systems can automatically count every keystroke of data-entry and data-processing clerks. Similarly, workers who answer telephone calls all day are monitored in detail. The exact number and duration of each call, and the idle time between calls, can go into an automatic log for analysis.

Video surveillance

One of the most effective forms of employee monitoring is through the use of Video surveillance equipment. Video feeds of employee activities are fed back to a central location where they are either recorded or monitored live by another person.

Location monitoring

For employees that do not work in a static location, supervisors may chose to track their location. Common examples of this are delivery and transportation industries. In some of these cases the employee monitoring is incidental as the location is tracked for other purposes, such as determining the amount of time before a parcel will be delivered, or which taxi is closest.

Employee surveillance may lead to an executive's decision on whether to promote or demote and employee or in some cases even fire them.

Different techniques can be used, e.g. employees' cell phone or Mobile phone tracking.

Employee privacy and ethical issues

Companies need to make sure they remain moral in utilizing techniques for monitoring their employees. From an ethical point of view, the employee does not give up all of his or her privacy while they are in their work environment. Privacy can become a moral matter, but it is important to know what the employee and employer rights are. The ethical challenge that companies face involves protecting their interests through Internet monitoring while ensuring they don't go so far that employees lose all sense of privacy in the workplace.[1] When a policy is in place, both the employer and employee will understand what is expected of each other. Without the proper policies and procedures there becomes no set standard and theoretically the employee has nothing to go by. The employee needs to understand what is expected of them while the employer needs to establish that rule.

Legal issues

In Canada, it is illegal to perform invasive monitoring, such as reading an employee's emails, unless it can be shown that it is a necessary precaution and there are no other alternatives [citation needed].In Maryland everyone in the conversation must give consent before the conversation can be recorded. The state of California requires that monitored conversations have a beep at certain intervals or there must be a message informing the caller that the conversations may be recorded, take note that this is not informing the company representative which calls are being recorded. Other states, including Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Colorado and New Jersey, also have laws relating to when a conversation can be recorded

The following uses of employee information are generally considered legal:

  • Find needed business information when the employee is not available.
  • Protect security of proprietary information and data.
  • Prevent or investigate possible criminal activities by employees.
  • Prevent personal use of employer facilities.
  • Check for violations of company policy against sending offensive or pornographic email.
  • Investigate complaints of harassment.
  • Check for illegal software.

According to Computer Monitoring: The Hidden War Of Control,“The employer of today has the ability and legal right to read e-mail, review files stored on a company computer, examine computer usage, and track individual employee computer activities. The idea of anonymous actions is an illusion. Every action between a network and the computers connected to it can be tracked. Every action by an individual worker on a computer can be tracked, analyzed and used against the employee. The protections and freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights are there to protect the individual from the Government and do not generally apply to the normal employee/employer relationship.”[2]


In some cases, monitoring an employee's work leads to monitoring the employee's life in aspects that are not related to work. This leads to acquisition of information about the employee, compromising the security of the employee.

See also

  • Monitoring
  • Mass surveillance
  • Surveillance
  • Workplace privacy


  1. Burks, F. Ethical Issues & Employer Monitoring Internet Usage., 2010.
  2. Kevin, P. P., & Tammy, Y. A. (2011). Computer monitoring: The hidden war of control. International Journal of Management and Information Systems, 15(1), 49-58. Retrieved from http://

External links

{enWP|Employee monitoring}}