As more companies have asked their employees to work from home because of COVID-19, there are growing concerns over privacy issues related to work-product and company records, in addition to issues with employee governance. Employers need to be mindful of compliance with data security and preservation requirements during this time. Even though many employers are taking a variety of measures to accommodate the health and safety of their employees, protection and preservation of private documents and data should not be forgotten, especially as more work is being completed away from the office.
What should employers do about data security?
There are many resources available to companies that will support them in maintaining proper governance and compliance during this time. However, some practical small steps towards safeguarding privacy and confidentiality concerns include:
- Advising employees to keep company documents out of view from other family members, roommates, or friends who may be visiting in the home;
- Using secured online platforms to share company documents;
- Utilizing specific procedures for storing company documents away from the office;
- Implementing secure means for disposing of documents once they are no longer needed;
- Ensuring that employees are abiding by all document sharing, storing, and disposal procedures;
- Instructing employees to not communicate about work via social media, instant messaging, or text messaging, but to only use professional communication platforms to discuss work;
- Asking employees to stay off social media during work hours; and
- Reminding employees to log out of all work at the end of the day;
As employees remain physically unsupervised, employers should communicate their security measures to employees. Employers may even want to consider revising their policies and procedures that govern data security, especially if the policies and procedures do not address how to comply with data security measures while working from home.
What should employers do about document preservation?
In addition to data compliance concerns, employers and employees alike must preserve all documents if litigation is or should be reasonably anticipated. As new employment laws are enacted in response to COVID-19, employers and employees need to be mindful of keeping up with all documents or records during this time that may be related to a current or future lawsuit. For example, employees should keep all documents related to requests for leave related to COVID-19 because the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) guarantees paid leave for certain eligible employees for reason related to COVID-19. Likewise, employers should keep record of the same as more lawsuits are being filed to enforce the FFCRA.
As mentioned above, employers need to ensure that they have systems in place to appropriately preserve documents, even while employees are working remotely and documents are being housed outside of the office. If employers do not have policies and procedures in place that address document preservation, now is the time to revise current policies to ensure compliance with laws regarding preservation of information and documents.
If you feel your employment rights have been violated, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Michel | King. You can contact us online or by calling us at (205) 319-9724.