Certain things about employees you have a legitimate right to know, even if they don’t want you to. Illegal drug use is one such piece of information.

But other things you do not have a right to know, or try to find out. If you do, you may be invading employees’ privacy. And even things you have a right to know, you don’t necessarily have a right to share – like medical information.

‘Reasonable expectation’
The key concept: “reasonable expectation.” Generally, if employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a situation – due to company policy, state law, or considerations of personal space or modesty – you can get in trouble by failing to respect that expectation.

Here are five tips to help you avoid invasion of employee privacy:

  • Don’t enter an employee’s private space — like a locker or an office that can be locked — without invitation or specific authorization from a superior.
  • Don’t go through an employee’s belongings or open personal mail unless your policy states that the company reserves the right to do so. (Even then, don’t act without advice.)
  • Don’t talk about disciplinary action against an employee.
  • Don’t spread conversations that you or others may have overheard.
  • Don’t discuss an employee’s medical condition except with authorized persons.

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