Business Law Chapter 06 Homework For Our Purposes This Unit The Ability

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subject Authors Dean Bredeson

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UNIT 6: Workplace Privacy
Unit Background/Author Perspective
Module 33: Monitoring Software
Module 34: Email Surveillance
Module 35: Drug Testing and Polygraph Testing
Module 36: Background Checks and Social Networking Websites
Module 37: Job Applicants and Credit Reports
Unit Background/Author Perspective
The constitutional right to privacy is probably the most controversial of all constitutional
liberties. Loosely stated, it is the legal idea that there are certain areas of one's life that should be
free of government regulation and that the government should not have the ability to influence
certain decisions.
The Supreme Court first weighed in on the right to privacy in the 1965 case Griswold v.
Connecticut. Before this case, a Connecticut state law made it illegal to use birth control or even
to give others advice about the use of contraceptives. The state of Connecticut prosecuted an
employee of Planned Parenthood (Griswold) who had counseled couples on methods of
contraception. The Supreme Court reversed the conviction of Griswold, reasoning that the state
law violated the privacy rights of Griswold and those seeking information from her.
The interesting thing about the Court's decision is that the Constitution does not directly
mention a “right to privacy.” Other constitutional liberties are mentioned by name—one can find
specific mention of free speech in the First Amendment, due process in the Fifth Amendment,
and the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment in the Eighth Amendment. But the
Supreme Court accepted the idea that when the Constitution is viewed as a whole, it creates
certain “zones of privacy.”
Not all justices agreed. Justice Stewart notably called the Connecticut law “silly,” but he
also thought that is was acceptable to have such a law under the Constitution. The controversy
about the existence, and the reach, of the implied right to privacy continues to this day.
For our purposes in this unit, the ability of employers to keep tabs on their employees is
the central theme. Should businesses be able to look through employee email? Or monitor the
websites that employees visit? Or require workers to submit a urine or hair sample for a drug
test? Or take a lie detector test?
Often, privacy rights at work must come from statutes or other kinds of laws that mirror
or supplement the constitutional right to privacy. In many key areas, there are no statutes, so
many privacy issues fall within the realm of ethics.
Unit Core Ethical Issues
Is it reasonable for companies to use software to track what employees are doing
on their computers throughout the workday?
Is it reasonable for companies to read employees' email, and if so, what
disciplinary steps should be taken if inappropriate messages are found?
Should employees be required to take drug tests if their work performance is
acceptable? Should workers ever be required to take lie detector tests?
Nearly everyone has a Facebook page. Is it acceptable for employers to check
applicants' Facebook pages when making hiring decisions?
The economic downturn has resulted in millions of new Americans having
significant debt problems. Is it appropriate for companies to do credit checks as
part of the hiring process?

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