Bosses Should Be Honest About Their Electronic Privacy Policies

Employers should be expected to keep their word.

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This is fair to everyone. The employer can create any policy it feels is good for the business, and the employees know the rules. As Donald Harris, president of HR Privacy Solutions, a leading consultant to major corporations, says, "Instead of putting out boilerplate policies, employers should write policies that tell employees what the company really intends to do."

It's just smart management. Being clear with workers about the company's monitoring policies improves compliance, since employees are naturally much more likely to follow policy if they know what it is. The management association's most recent survey reveals that the vast majority (82 percent) of its corporate members fully inform employees about company monitoring programs.

In asking the Supreme Court to overturn the Ninth Circuit ruling in Quon, the city of Ontario is saying that it wants employers to be able to tell employees what the rules for monitoring will be, have the workers rely upon what their employers tell them, fail to follow the policy in the normal course of business, and then let the employers go back on their word because of a piece of paper in the manual that the employer suggested it wasn't going to enforce.

Not only would such a rule be unfair to employees, it would hurt employers as well. If workers know that their employers' promises are legally meaningless, they will stop accepting them. Management will be unable to work out disagreements with employees because everyone will know management's promises mean nothing. This isn't the way most successful companies operate.

And the Supreme Court should not be in the business of endorsing a rule that's inequitable and encourages sloppy management.

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