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Employee Monitoring: Not the Union Rep's Enemy

Employee Monitoring: Not the Union Rep's Enemy

For years and years, the term “employee monitoring” has carried with it a predominantly negative connotation in the eyes of many, union reps in particular, who work together with a common goal of making work conditions better for the individual employee. Because unions work against employee exploitation and don’t believe in employers holding too much power, employee monitoring has historically been seen as an intrusion on employees’ rights and privacy. However, employee monitoring for safety is a win-win, helping work toward both union and company goals. Unions want to empower employees. Employee monitoring allows employers to provide increased safety measures activated by the employee themselves. Companies want to increase safety standards, gain employee policy buy-in and be seen in a more positive light from their employees. Employee monitoring helps companies meet all of these goals, and when done properly, can result in a workforce that truly feels like their employers care about them, thereby increasing morale.

Union workers have an end goal of magnifying the individual employee’s voice in the eyes of employers. As stated by The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, “through a union, workers have a right to impact wages, work hours, benefits, workplace health and safety, job training and other work-related issues.” Employers are now using employee monitoring for workplace safety purposes, which is a high priority issue on union workers’ list.

Negative Connotation Associated with Employee Monitoring

The term employee monitoring inherently has a negative connotation. “Employee monitoring” can refer to many different measures taken by an organization to track employees. Some employers monitor employees’ computer activity using special software in order to ensure that their employees stay on task during the workday. In other cases, if employees must regularly be on the road, and more frequently in a company vehicle, employers may place a tracking device on work vehicles to keep track of employee whereabouts during work hours. These are just two of many of the different monitoring activities that fall under the category “employee monitoring.” In instances such as these, employee monitoring works against the union mindset, and the consensus is that such actions and policies are unfair, unjust and intrusive. Unions and employees alike, often think these tools are put in place for potential use in terminating employees in the future. In their minds, and the minds of many, it puts too much power in the employer’s hands and puts no trust or confidence in employees.

However, as previously stated, the activities that can be associated with employee monitoring can be very different from one another, and not all forms of employee monitoring should be considered invasive. Many companies use what they call “employee monitoring” in order to give their staff access to an essential employee right: safety.

Employee Monitoring for Safety

There are worker safety solutions out there that utilize employee monitoring in order to ensure the safety of those employees. Solutions like these, rather than tracking all activity for the employer’s benefit, allow employees to activate their own monitoring in times of potential danger.

For instance, our worker safety solution at SoloProtect helps lone workers in particular. Lone workers are defined as employees that work outside of eye or earshot of others. They may work off site by themselves or work odd hours when others aren’t around. SoloProtect provides these lone workers with a discreet device that they can wear on their body, utilized as an ID badge holder. Should the employee enter a threatening situation, they can discreetly send out an alert using SoloProtect’s device. Once the alert has been sent, the employee monitoring begins. A trained emergency operator from SoloProtect’s Emergency Dispatch Center will listen in on the lone worker’s distress call, assessing whether or not further action needs to be taken.

Lone workers using the SoloProtect solution also have the option to record “yellow alerts” on the device. This gives them the much needed ability to pre record their location and any details about the tasks they are performing while they are there or special instructions for directions. This information is only accessed if the employee subsequently raises a red alert. In this case, these yellow alerts provide emergency dispatchers with a more precise location and contextual information. For instance, if an employee were working in a high-rise building and a situation came about where they needed help, even if they summoned help with a GPS enabled device, how quickly might help get to them? If relying solely on GPS, the device may be able to locate the building, but certainly not the floor, wing, room or other location specific data. The lack of precise information would, of course, delay response time. With a proper yellow alert, however, the dispatcher would know not only the building location, but the floor, room or area of the building- anything the user provided on the yellow alert. For example, if I were a social worker entering a multi-story apartment complex, I would pre-record in my car, “this is Jane Brown and I am at Martha Smith’s residence at 123 Main Street, Willowbend Apartments, third floor of building 12 in unit 1203. I expect to be here 3 hours and there are no known threats.” Leaving a message such as this would certainly provide a dispatcher with all of the information they would need to locate me.

Finally, the Identicom device can automatically activate a red alert in the case of a 'Incapacitation' incident, or an incident where the employee may be unconscious or otherwise injured in a way where they are unable to physically activate a red alert themselves. If the device remains in a horizontal position for an extended amount of time, a red alert will automatically be sent to the Emergency Dispatch Center. The Emergency Dispatch Center will then communicate with the user, if able, as the need to be discreet is no longer a priority once a user is in incapacitated, assess the situation and dispatch help accordingly.

While some of the activities that are associated with employee monitoring can be considered limiting to the employee and their rights, the term “employee monitoring” does not need to be written off as something that should always be resisted. In this case of employee monitoring for safety, the employee monitoring does not encroach on the employee’s rights. Instead, it empowers them. They hold the control of when monitoring actually needs to be accessed, and they are provided with the extra safety and security that they desire and deserve, all while being encouraged from a caring employer to dynamically assess their working situations.

SoloProtect offers an unprecedented lone worker safety solution, utilizing employee monitoring for safety with the award-winning Identicom device and a highly-trained Emergency Dispatch Center that operates 24/7/365. For more information about risks that lone workers face and how to mitigate them, download our white paper and infographic here.

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