Are Employers Allowed to Track Employees?
In a digital age where privacy seems like a thing of the past, some employees are beginning to feel as though their employers are fringing on their personal freedoms. Obviously, all employees need to make some concessions when working for a business, but for workers who operate company vehicles many are asking, “Can my employer track my Vehicle?“. The question is certainly a valid one so let’s take a look at how employers utilize GPS tracking devices to monitor company vehicles, if the technology is keeping drivers safe, and any potential conflicts between the employee and employer when vehicle surveillance technology is employed.
What Is a GPS Tracker Used For
No Monthly Fee GPS Trackers For Businesses
GPS data loggers are user-friendly and cost-effective GPS trackers that will record the travel activities of any vehicle second-by-second. Unlike many other tracking devices that require costly monthly service obligations, when businesses invest in a data logger they only need to make a one-time purchase. What makes these GPS trackers popular among employers is first they are approximately the size of a pack of chewing gum, have a magnetic mount that allows the user to place the GPS data logger on the outside frame of any vehicle, allowing for covert placement. The vehicle tracking system is engineered with a water-resistant housing to withstand light elemental conditions. What these types of GPS trackers are used for is:
- Recording how fast an employee is driving a company vehicle
- Determining every location an employee goes in a company vehicle
- Monitoring route selection employees use in a company vehicle
For more information on how to tell if there is a GPS tracker on your vehicle please click here.
In order for an employer to view where an employee has been all they need to do is remove the tracker from the company vehicle and with an attached USB drive download the travel history. Once the data from the tracker is downloaded to a personal computer the employer can review the information over an animated digital street map, in a text report format, or over the satellite image program Google Earth.
GPS Tracker For Business Vehicles
Employers generally view their employees as assets that need to be maximized in order to expand growth and revenue. Some employers use positive reinforcement to increase an employee’s production rate by offering bonuses or other incentives to motivate an employee. However, many employers are now using technology to weigh if an employee is being constructive with time spent working in the office or field. What the employers are doing is adopting GPS tracking systems, computer surveillance equipment, and video cameras to spy on employees during the workday in an effort to validate performance. Because employers are using GPS trackers, among other monitoring devices, employees are raising questions about privacy rights while on the job.
Surveillance In The Work Place
Recently, The ePolicy Institute contacted 526 companies and gave each one a survey about what type of employee monitoring devices or procedures were used on staff, and the following data was compiled:
- 51% of the 526 companies used video surveillance
- 85% of the 526 companies stated they informed employees about video surveillance of staff
Statistics were not provided about the number of GPS tracking devices that were used to monitor employees who worked outside of the office.
Many businesses with numerous company vehicles operating in the field have been using GPS tracking systems with regularity for a variety of reasons.
Company Tracking Employees
Although many businesses and employers are taking advantage of vehicle tracking devices and other surveillance equipment, the actions are not going unnoticed by many employees. An employee for a Michigan-based trucking company that uses GPS fleet tracking systems on all company vehicles said, “I understand why my company is using a GPS tracking system on my truck and it’s okay with me because the vehicle GPS tracker also helps, like, if for some reason I get lost or need help in routing, unlike other computer and video surveillance stuff they try to force on me.” However, the same employee was not enthusiastic about all forms of employee tracking saying, “This is a slippery slope that I don’t think companies should pursue because I mean, are they going to start drug testing us every day and giving us polygraph lie detector tests next?” Maybe employers using lie detection devices may seem a bit extreme, but it does bring up an interesting point about how employee rights are being invaded and may continue to decline as technology big-brothers employee behavior.
Union Fights GPS Over Dispute
When Bankstown, Camden, and Sutherland councils in Australia passed initiatives to have vehicle tracking systems installed on dump trucks and ride-on mowers, union officials in Burwood began barking about employee privacy rights. The barking turned into out-right frustration and anger when the Burwood council followed suit with the Bankstown, Camden, and Sutherland councils and began contriving a plan to use GPS vehicle tracking devices on street sweepers. The GPS vehicle tracking system initiative has increased tensions between city officials and the United Services Union members and has sparked controversy regarding employee rights.
Union’s View On Vehicle Tracking Systems
The United Services Union has hammered the Burwood council on the vehicle tracker initiative on the basis that the council is using the GPS systems with intention of snooping on employees. Wayne Moody, a representative for the union, stated that the decision to use auto tracking devices on the older trucks that only service an area approximately 7 square miles in Burwood made no financial sense. He also criticized officials who said the GPS trackers would increase efficiency and allow employees to reach performance bonuses when no bonuses were issued to any employees.
Opponents of the GPS vehicle tracker program point to that of the quarter-million dollars worth of equipment that was stolen in 2008, all of it was recovered, with the exception of one single piece of equipment, without the use of any GPS vehicle tracking device. The fact that 99% of the equipment was recovered without the use of any automobile tracking units reinforces the notion that the GPS systems are an unnecessary expense, and their function must be solely to spy on employees.
Council’s View on Vehicle Tracking Systems
John Sidoti, the Burwood Mayor, explained that the vehicle tracking devices have multiple functions and have a lot to offer Burwood. He stated that the GPS fleet tracking will not only record the location of every street sweeper, but the GPS systems will also inform operators when vehicle maintenance is required. Another bonus feature of the vehicle tracking systems is that each GPS system comes with a distress button that will alert officials or security if equipment or operators are being carjacked, or fall into any other form of harm’s way. “The car tracker’s panic button feature will provide employees an additional sense of security”, an unnamed source pronounced.
No data were presented on the frequency of crime or attacks upon street sweeping vehicles and/or operators.
Burwood officials also view the live GPS trackers as an additional way to increase theft-recovery efforts.
Is There A Compromise Available?
Union officials’ main frustration regarding the GPS car tracking initiative was that the council did not communicate and inform them of the decision they were moving forward with the GPS systems, something they were required to do under the vehicle tracking system award. “We feel that the council is not being upfront and honest with us, and that is the root of the tension”, explained an unnamed source speaking on behalf of the union.
Should the council have discussed the auto-tracking initiative in-depth with the union ahead of time? Should the union be concerned that the council wants to use GPS tracking systems on employees? If theft is not an issue, are the vehicle tracking devices a necessary expenditure? These were all important questions but in the end, the vehicles all were equipped with GPS tracking devices, and now it is becoming more commonplace for work vehicles to be set with some form of real time GPS tracking.
Should employers have the right to use real-time GPS tracking or other surveillance devices on employees working in the office or outside in the field?
Do you see employers implementing lie detection devices or drug tests as a way to have greater control over employees in the future? Would this be considered acceptable or legal?
Is the use of GPS trackers on employees an acceptable practice?
Matthew is a freelance writer who is passionate about technology, music, photography, and decentralized finance.