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Can businesses in California use GPS to track workers?

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2024 | Employment Law

There are many ways that employers can – intentionally or unintentionally – violate the rights of workers. Often, those violations involve discrimination or harassment. Employers might treat workers with certain protected characteristics differently than others. They may turn a blind eye to a hostile work environment or may refuse to offer appropriate support to those with disabling medical conditions.

Other times, companies engage in conduct that violates a worker’s rights as an individual. For example, both federal statutes and California state laws established a basic right to privacy. Employers can potentially violate a worker’s privacy through company practices.

For example, companies might use GPS devices on mobile phones or vehicles to track workers. They can then use the information obtained with those devices to justify employment decisions, like terminating a worker or refusing to promote them. Is it legal for companies to track the whereabouts of individual workers?

Employees must consent to tracking

It is cheap and relatively simple to use devices on vehicles or apps on mobile technology like phones to pinpoint someone’s location. Companies that send workers out into the field or that require travel might use GPS tracking for safety purposes. Companies that allow remote work might want to track employees to make sure they don’t take quiet vacations.

What may seem reasonable to executives at companies can feel incredibly invasive to workers. The law in California does address this situation. Employees have to consent to GPS tracking to make it legal for an employer to track their whereabouts unless the GPS tracking device is on a company fleet vehicle.

Of course, many workers may have already given that consent without realizing it. It is common for companies to bury policies about GPS tracking and other company actions that workers may find questionable deep in employment contracts.

Workers may never have realized what terms they agreed to when accepting the job. Often, employees who worry about a violation of their rights need to review their contracts carefully to see what terms they agreed to when accepting the job. In cases where a worker did not consent to GPS tracking, a company may have violated their rights by using technology to track their location.

When companies violate the rights of their workers, it can be very difficult for affected employees to stand up for themselves. Learning about California’s employment laws and reviewing the terms of a contract with a skilled legal team could help a worker determine if they have grounds to take legal action after uncovering inappropriate employer practices.