Is it legal to track employees using GPS?
GPS fleet tracking is growing in popularity as managers discover the many benefits of being able to follow their vehicles in real-time, as well as generating reports on worker activity.
But some employers worry that by tracking staff using GPS will expose their business to a lawsuit. Is it legal to use GPS to track staff?
What is GPS tracking?
What are we referring to when we talk about GPS tracking? Essentially it is where an employee’s vehicle is fitted with a GPS tracking device, or the GPS feature on their phone is activated to track their movements throughout the day*. The employer uses this information to know where workers have been during the day, as well as other GPS-related information such as time on the job or vehicle speed.
*There are two types of GPS devices – connected and disconnected. A connected device will send out a signal that can be tracked by an authorized user in real-time. A disconnected device will store that information and someone can review the data when the device returns to the office. There are pros and cons for both types but a connected device is the more popular choice because it gives employers the ability to act quickly on time-critical information, such as knowing who is closest to an ad-hoc job and can respond faster.
The employer may use a web-based service (or SaaS software), such as Telogis Fleet, to track these GPS devices so they can view them from anywhere that has an internet connection, normally in the office. They may receive instant alerts when certain ‘rules’ or parameters are breached, such as speeding, driving dangerously, entering no-go areas (such as a bar or casino during work hours) or when the vehicle is having mechanical problems.
So you’ve decided to install GPS tracking devices so you know what you’re staff are doing throughout the day – will you get into trouble with the law?
Is GPS tracking staff legal?
There seem to be a variety of opinions on how legal it is with some commentators saying it is a ‘gray’ area but the general consensus is that, if done properly, then you won’t have to fear a legal challenge from an employee.
The difficulty seems to be balancing the rights of a business to know how company equipment is being used and what employees are doing while on the clock, with a worker’s right to privacy.
The answer seems to be as open as possible with your staff on what you are tracking and why. The chances of running in to legal problems are greatly increased when GPS tracking is done in secret, without an employee’s knowledge. Not only does that give them grounds for defense but may result in legal action for invasion of privacy.
- Use GPS trackers on company property only
- Inform staff before beginning GPS tracking and have them accept this as part of using company-owned equipment
- Only collect and store information that is interferes or impacts on their job performance
- Explain the benefits of using GPS tracking, possibly providing incentives to drivers now that real-time performance can be accurately measured
When done for the right reasons and with your staff on board, you’ll find it far less likely that you’ll run into legal problems, instead enjoying the safety, productivity and efficiency benefits lots of fleets are enjoying with GPS tracking.