Research Papers Privacy Rights Of Employees In Workplaces

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The employer may carry out such tests simply by questioning the prospective employee, or through a medical exam.

The tests may be used to determine whether the applicant has the necessary characteristics to carry out the employment tasks of the job, such as an eyesight test for a pilot.

What is clear from a review of the current law affecting the privacy rights of workers in New Zealand is that, while far from unregulated, there are many occasions where the interests of employers will trump an employee's privacy rights.

Concern for privacy rights suggests a need for reform of the existing law.

Obviously the threat to privacy from such monitoring is that the employer will discover personal information about an employee from reading the employee's personal emails to friends and family or from information gathered about the type of websites the employee visits.

Psychological or personality testing will generally take place in the pre-employment stage, but may also be used during employment for making decisions on promotions and other job related decisions.Most authors will refer to the seminal article of Warren and Brandeis when formulating such a definition.[1] Their definition is perhaps the most concise - privacy is said to be the 'right to be let alone'.[2] More recently, the New Zealand Court of Appeal has dealt with this difficult area of law in the case of Hosking v Runting.[3] Tipping J noted that the concept of privacy is potentially very broad and defined it for the purposes of the case before him as 'the right to have people leave you alone if you do not want some aspect of your private life to become public property'.[4] He also stated that it 'is of the essence of the dignity and personal autonomy and well being of all human beings that some aspects of their lives should be able to remain private if they so wish' .[5] Thus, privacy is accorded recognition as an important concept in New Zealand law.It is, in fact, generally recognised as a fundamental human right in academic literature.[6] However, the right to privacy is far from being absolute.For example, some psychological tests ask questions about a person's sexual, religious, political and social attitudes.[15] There is also concern as to whom the results of these tests are made available.The concern for privacy is when tests are used to determine an applicant's general level of health or fitness.General medical tests may be carried out by an employer in an attempt to predict the applicant's potential use of sick leave, or absenteeism.[17] Health checks may be required by the employer's insurer when medical insurance coverage is part of the employment package.[18] The employer may also be concerned to minimise accident compensation levies under the Injury, Prevention, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2001.For example, 'computers can record when workers turn their [monitors] on and off, count the number of keystrokes per second, and track the number of operator errors per day' .[13] A main focus for this paper is the monitoring of electronic mail (email) and internet use, that is, the ability of employers to read work related and personal emails and to track websites an employee visits and the information he or she downloads from such websites.By way of example, monitoring may be undertaken to prevent work email or internet facilities being used to pass on or download material of an offensive nature.At the pre-employment stage, the purpose of such tests is to help employers decide which applicant to select for the job offered.The tests are used to look for psychological traits necessary and desirable in employees.[14] The concern for those subjected to testing is when such tests delve too deeply into a person's psyche and appear unrelated to the job description.

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