Nearly three-fourths of the nation’s largest corporations, from Xerox to Salomon Brothers Smith Barney, legally check up on employees by monitoring email, Internet use, computer files and even telephone conversations, according to a study by the AMA, a nonprofit organization that provides management and business training.

Companies say they don’t routinely spy on employees, but the AMA found that many would not hesitate to do so while conducting an investigation or a performance review. They’re also willing to take quick action: 28 percent of the companies surveyed say they’ve already dismissed people for misusing office equipment.

Dow Chemical Company fired 29 Michigan employees, suspended another 42 and disciplined many others for sending pornographic or “violent” images on company email. After receiving an employee complaint, the firm spent a week scrounging through thousands of email files. “There was a whole range of material, from mild pornographic pictures, to Sports Illustrated swimsuit photos, to hardcore and violent images,” says Eric Grates, spokesman for Dow’s Michigan headquarters.

Companies that do the most screening tend to be larger firms with more resources. And, at this point it’s perfectly legal for employers to monitor their employees activities.

Also, be aware that new technology provides employers a number of options in monitoring devices. For example:

  • A Florida-based software company, released a monitoring program that takes “screen shots” of employees’ computers at selected intervals for employers to view at a later date;
  • Another company launched software called Pornsweeper that examines images attached to emails and searches picture files for anything that appears to be human flesh; and
  • Various computer programs exist that monitor an employee’s keystrokes and can determine what the employee has typed on his computer.

See also…

Labor and Employment Law

Internet Law – Forum