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Your Boss Can Now Search Your Car

Thanks to Trump, Labor Board gave employers permission to search your personal property

Brian Young's picture
Jul 08, 2020

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has given employers a sweeping ability to increase surveillance on their employees. The case overturns years of labor law that protected the privacy of workers.

On June 24th, the board issued a ruling that expanded an employer’s right to surveil their workforce. In the decision, the board said that employers have the right to search employee’s personal property while they are on the company’s property. This would include allowing a boss to search someone’s car, locker, or personal workspace. The board also said that a company can track employee activity on company-provided devices, networks, and computer systems. The ruling, which will be known as Verizon Wireless, applied the Boeing Rule which said that companies can institute policies that govern what is and is not allowed in the workplace. In the Boeing case, the NLRB specifically looked at whether the company could enforce a no camera policy.

This is a huge expansion of an employer’s rights. Under this decision, a boss who thinks that a workforce is organizing would legally be allowed to search every employee's car for information on the organizing effort or for signed union cards. While a union would still be able to file a grievance against the company if an employee was punished after one of these searches, we all know that employer’s always have an argument to get around this. They also can use these searches to intimidate their employees.

The expansion of a boss's right to search an employee’s property also raises numerous privacy concerns. According to the ruling, as long as an employer takes reasonable, common-sense measures to ensure the safety and security of its property and its personnel in the workplace, the search is legal. One would have to wonder how far that goes. Let’s take the case of a diabetic. That employee might not have informed their boss about their medical condition; however, a boss could deem a needle in the workplace to be a reasonable cause for concern, meaning they could force the employee to reveal a medical condition they chose to keep secret, which is their right. Not only would the employee's privacy be violated, but the employer would now have secret information on an employee's medical diagnosis, which could be costing the company significantly more in healthcare costs. This information could then be used to remove that employee when the business looks to cut costs. This is just one of many privacy concerns that this ruling opens up.

In regards to the decision on employers being allowed to track employees on their company-owned devices, this decision reaffirms the Caesars decision. However, with more people working from home, it is a good reminder that only work-related tasks should be done on a company device. Just because someone is working from home doesn’t mean that their employer can’t still track their web history. Depending on the company’s rules, this decision would allow the boss to take adverse action against employees who are caught using a company device or network for anything outside of work. This could be something innocuous like checking ESPN or doing some shopping on Amazon, but it could also be for doing something like organizing your co-workers into a union. This ruling is yet another reminder to always use personal devices and personal email accounts to talk union.

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