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How Minnesota views your right to privacy in the workplace

Minnesota's Supreme Court recently committed itself to addressing invasion of privacy matters, especially in the workplace. What's come of this is renewed interest in employee rights as it relates to employer's responsibility to respect their boundaries, even when they're on work premises. More specifically, it's left many asking whether it's lawful for employers to search employee computers and desks, tap their phones or voice concerns about personal choices.

Under current Minnesota law, employers are only entitled to either monitor their employee's calls, read their emails or search their desks if they advise them of their rights to do so in advance. Additionally, they're only allowed to do so for a business-related reason. They're therefore restricted from tapping into anything of a personal nature, even if it involves a work phone or computer.

Additionally, any information uncovered must held in strict confidentiality by the employer. This is especially true if the employer were to gain access to any health information regarding an employee, as might the case when conducting on-boarding physicals or background checks.

As for an employee's locker, desk or other assigned personal space, employers are allowed to search them only in cases in which there's probable cause, or a justifiable business-related reason, for doing so. It's important, however, that, much like tapping phone calls or reading employee e-mails, an employer asserts his or her right to do so in writing first.

Employers in Minnesota are also entitled to conduct surveillance on their employees to ensure that they're complying with a no smoking or substance abuse policy while at work. They are, however, unable to do so when they're off the clock. The same goes for anti-fraternization policies that may exist in the workplace as well.

The aforementioned are just some of the many rights to privacy that you enjoy as an employee in the state of Minnesota. If you suspect that your rights have been violated, then a St. Paul employment law attorney can counsel you as to whether your case merits the filing of a lawsuit.

Source: FindLaw, "Employee privacy in Minnesota: Avoiding liability exposure in medical workplaces," Susan Oliphant, accessed Sep. 29, 2017

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