What You Don't Know You Have the Right to Know About Your Employees

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There is all kinds of research out there about the rights of employees in an age where perspective employers can use all kinds of tactics to keep tabs on workers. While an individual's rights to privacy are extremely important, making sure you don't hire or continue to employ unscrupulous people that could put the safety of your business, your customers, and your other workers at stake. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, employee theft costs companies $20 to $40 billion a year, and 75 percent of employee crime goes unnoticed. Theft is only the first stop on the list of things that could go wrong. You might not be able to tell beforehand who is going to commit a crime at work, but in order to catch many of the red flags, you need to know exactly what you're allowed to ask and what behavior you're allowed to regulate. You have the right to employ people you can trust and to be aware of the following things.

1. Everything they do Online

This is the easy one. As long as they are using computers that belong to your offices, every single thing they do on the internet is able to be monitored by you, up to and including personal emails and social media sites. In order to monitor email, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act requires you state upfront that it could happen and get a signature on a release form at the time of hire. Some employers opt for a key-logging program, which records everything an employee types on their computer, even their passwords. Be careful, though, certain state laws may allow for employees to combat this practice, and it definitely makes for a more hostile environment in the workplace.

2. Whether they are Substance Abusers

Many employers get confused on this point. Obviously, you are allowed to fire anyone who brings alcohol or drugs into work without question. But what if it's outside work? What if it simply gets back to you that your employee has been staying out late drinking every night, or that they may have a serious drug problem? Even if you haven't seen the signs of it in their work performance, you are permitted, under many circumstances, to fire them. Some state laws place limitations on your ability to fire people for activities which are legal, so it's important to understand your state regulations before you take action. But when you're hiring at-will employees, you normally have the most leeway.

3. Their Real Medical Condition

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That means you can and should ask for proof if your employee asks for accommodation because they are disabled or needs a leave of absence for any reason. You can require a doctor's note for sick days as long as it doesn't include a diagnosis and the policy is fair to everyone. If an employee makes a worker's comp claim, you are entitled to information about their condition. Worker's compensation fraud is such a widespread issue in America that it costs most workers around $900 per year. If you can't get the information you need from your employee's doctor, you may have to do some digging online to find out exactly how injured they really are. The good news is that the law is usually on an employer's side when it comes to doing that.

A large percentage of employee crime can be prevented by doing adequate background checks before you hire, but you don't have to stop there. It pays to research not only an employee's right to privacy but also an employer's right to know what kind of people they have staffing their offices. It's a fine line, and you should walk it professionally. Don't undermine the freedom of your workers, but don't fail to look for answers when somebody is being less than honest.

Writer Christopher Shanks is an avid blogger. Want to find out more about your employees? Check out the services at free people search .org or freebackgroundcheck.org.

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