According to a survey by the American Management Association International, two-thirds of businesses eavesdrop on their employees in some fashion -- whether through email tracking, Internet usage, by videotape or over the phone. And in just about every situation, they have a right to do so.
Employers have the fiduciary responsibility to protect the business they are working in, and part of that responsibility is to ensure that employees are not abusing the rules and regulations of the business.
Technology has allowed the ability to monitor employee activity very easily. But rest assured -- most employers don't set out to spy on their employees, but usually do when there is reason to suspect that a risk is real.
How real is the risk? After some Chevron Corporation employees sent sexually harassing email through the company's system, Chevron was forced to pay the victims $2.2 million. Had they been monitoring the email system, they could have avoided the problems.
Workplace privacy has escalated into a raging debate as the capabilities of technology increase. Only one federal law exists which addresses workplace privacy. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act forbids employers to eavesdrop on email and telephone conversations once it is clear that those communications are of a personal nature. Beyond that, each state is grappling with its own way to handle the issue.