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In this regard, this blog is Part XI of our series, “Key Workplace Policies and Employee Handbooks.” In Part X, we highlighted some of the general office policies that the law in New York requires to be included in employee handbooks. Regarding this, we mentioned that some of the most critical general office policies that should be featured in an employee handbook include, but are not limited to, computer and internet policies, media contact policies, vacation policies, reimbursement policies, dress code policies, working hours, and travel policies. We also added that it is critical to note that the state of New York has a number of laws that provide guidelines and offer insights into the responsibilities of both an employer and employee when it comes to some of these policies. This goes without saying that every employer must take proactive steps to understand what the different laws say about these key policies and the elements that should characterize them when being included in employee handbooks.

Still stuck on the same gear, this blog is titled “New York Law on Employee Privacy & Company Devices in the Workplace” and is a review of key issues for employers when it comes to employee privacy and company devices in the workplace.

New York Law on Employee Privacy & Company Devices in the Workplace

Pursuant to N.Y. Penal Law §§ 250.00, 250.05, employers in New York are prohibited from recording confidential conversations, mechanically eavesdropping on an employee, or accessing or intercepting electronic communications of employees. However, N.Y. Penal Law 250.00 provides exceptions, especially when another party or the employee has consented to the communication or when the employer is a party to the same.

Employees should be aware that communications that take place via the equipment of a business or company belong to the business or company and, thus, the employer has the right of monitoring, accessing, or storing it. This means that when creating policies regarding communications, employers should, as a best practice, indicate that even if no notice is needed, communications taking place over company equipment will be monitored. Providing such notice will raise the chances that equipment belonging to a company or business will only be used for work-related purposes, as well as mitigate against disputes that may arise due to inappropriate use.

Furthermore, the employer should include a clause requiring business conducted by employees to take place only through communication systems provided, owned, and controlled by the employer. It is also crucial to note that a myriad of security issues may arise when business-related activities are conducted through employees’ personal equipment. Normally, even if they are conducted using personal equipment, employers are expected by industry regulators to exercise control and access over business-related activities.

Generally, employers have the right of monitoring their workplaces, particularly regarding communications taking place over company or business equipment. However, as codified under N.Y. Lab. Law § 203-c, employers are prohibited from videotaping employees in places designated for the purposes of changing, locker rooms, or restrooms.

In Part XII and the next blog titled “Policies Concerning the Use of Independent Contractors,” we will review key considerations for start-ups and growing businesses or companies in New York when it comes to the use of independent contractors in lieu of employees.

As usual, stay tuned for more legal guidance, training, and education. In the interim, if there are any questions or comments, please let us know at the Contact Us page!

Always Rising Above the Bar,

Isaac T.,

Legal Writer, Author, & Publisher.