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Your basic rights to privacy in the workplace

Workplace cultures can shift over time. While traditionally it was expected that employees make a strong distinction between their personal life and their working life, today many companies try to encourage employees to express aspects of their personal life, whether it's talking about family and social life with coworkers, or wearing clothes that make them feel more comfortable.

The shifting culture of a more intertwined personal and working life does not change your right to privacy in the workplace, however. All workers have basic rights to privacy, and if these standards of privacy are breached, they have the right to take action. The following are some of the basic standards of privacy that you have the right to in the workplace.

The right to privacy regarding personal phone calls

If you make a work-related phone call in the workplace, your employer generally has the right to monitor it if they wish. However, the Electronics Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) puts limitations on how telephones can be monitored at work. As a result, if you make a personal phone call while at work, even when using a work phone to do so, these may not be monitored by employers unless the employee has consented to that particular phone call being monitored. Employees also have the right to complete privacy when it comes to voicemails. Employers, therefore, must not read, delete or prevent access to the voicemails of an employee.

The right to be free from post-hiring drug testing

It's common for employees to be subject to drug testing, especially when these employees have jobs that carry safety risks. In general, employers can only carry out drug tests on employees who have been involved in an accident that may have been drug-related, if they have been suspected of drug use, if they have completed a drug rehabilitation program or if their job carries a safety risk for themselves or others.

Everyone should feel that their privacy is respected in the workplace. If you believe that your privacy rights in the workplace have been breached, you may want to consider taking legal action. Privacy breaches could negatively affect your career in years to come, therefore it is important to take them extremely seriously.

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