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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Is using GPS to track your employees ethical?

A customer called the other day completely flustered over a situation with one of her employees.  The employee had refused to enable GPS tracking on their iPhone stating that it was a "violation of their civil liberties."  Understanding that allowing a company to track your movements, from a personal device, could be disconcerting to some people, the customer bought a company iPad for the employee.  The employee still refused to allow GPS tracking. This time exclaiming that it was "unethical to track a person."   Needless to say, our customer was at a loss.  She wanted to know first if it was a violation of civil rights.   Secondly, was there some validity to his claim or did he just not want to be tracked?

Hmmmm…. An Interesting Question…. 

As far as the legality of using GPS to track your employees, I can’t say.  I am not a lawyer and laws in every state differ.   If this is a concern at your company,  I would recommend seeking legal council.  It never hurts to dot your I’s and cross your T’s in legal matters.  However we can take a look at the question, is it ethical?  

To start, let’s look at why a company would even need to employ GPS tracking for employees.  While there may be many reasons, the following account provides a good argument for GPS tracking and may apply to many businesses.  

Automated Waste Disposal Incorporated*  started using GPS to ensure their truck drivers didn’t speed and to make sure they were on track to meet their delivery schedule.  They were sure it would reduce overtime and labor costs.  They were right!  After implementing the GPS tracking system, the number of overtime hours dropped from 300 to 70 hours on average, per week.

This story, at first, made me sad.  I like to believe that humankind is innately good and that for the most part try to make good choices.  So I knew there had to be more to these numbers than employees fudging on their time cards or driving slower to get a few extra hours on a check.  Guess what?  I was right!  Knowing they were being tracked did help to keep a few employees, who were taking advantage, stay honest.   The real money savings, however, came from higher productivity.  The business became more productive because they were better able to track route guidance and improve fleet scheduling by assigning the closest vehicle to the service call thus eliminating commute time.

We can see that using GPS  has the ability to save companies money.  But, what are your rights as an employee?  I believe it all comes down to one word, “contract.”  When an employee takes a job, they agree to complete a task.  The employer has the right to monitor the employee to make sure the task is getting done in a fair amount of time, and done the way they would like it done.  In exchange, the employer pays the employee for their services.  If using GPS tracking helps the employer monitor a job successfully, improving quality and increasing productivity, then they are within their ethical bounds to use the GPS tool while the employee is at work. 

Does GPS tracking violate basic civil liberties?  Is it unethical?  After doing a lot of research, I have come to the conclusion that it does not, as long as employees are only being tracked while “on the clock.”  When we see numbers, like Automated Waste Disposal saw, we can easily come to the conclusion that GPS tracking of employees will only become more predominant for businesses dealing with a mobile workforce. 

Collect • Track • Document • Manage • Deliver • Integrate 

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