Privacy in the Workplace

The California Constitution says the right of privacy is one of the most important legal rights that residents of this great state possess. The CA Constitution gives employees the ability to sue employers for violations of that privacy right.

In order to do so, the employee must show that the employer violated the employee’s reasonable expectation of privacy. This is measured objectively upon widely accepted community and social norms.


Privacy violations occur in a number of ways:

Medical Examinations and Information

Requiring an employee to disclose the medications that she is currently taking or requiring an employee to authorize the employer to acquire information concerning the internal state of the tested individual’s body intrudes upon privacy interests. With some exceptions, job applicants generally may not be required to disclose confidential medical information or to submit to a medical examination.

Monitoring Employee Computer Activity

Privacy issues are also raised when an employer monitors its employees’ e-mails or internet usage or by accessing the employees’ personal files stored on company computers. There are a multitude of various laws that may limit an employer who monitors its employees’ e-mail and internet use. Generally, employers have a right to monitor the use of company computer use. However, this does not necessarily extend to internet usage. This is a complex and evolving body of law.


Drug Tests

Requiring an employee to submit to a drug test without adequate suspicion is permissible only under these limited circumstances:

  • If you are an applicant for new job you may be tested so long as all new job applicants are tested
  • Random drug tests of existing employees is generally unreasonable without any individualized suspicion unless the employee is in a safety or security sensitive position.

Other Privacy Violations

  • Disclosure of Reasons for Termination
  • Co-worker relationships
  • Arrests
  • Marijuana Convictions
  • Lie Detector Tests
  • Consumer Credit Reports
  • Investigative Consumer Reports
  • Workplace Misconduct Reports
  • Health or Medical Information (HIPPA)
  • Confidential Communications

If you believe your privacy rights have been violated in the workplace, contact our employment attorney for more information.