Why All Employers Should Pay Attention to This New Employee Monitoring Law in New York

As if you need another reason to avoid spying on your employees.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a civil rights law last November directing private employers to notify employees if they’re being monitored. The law, which went into effect earlier this month, may hold ramifications for employers more broadly, if other local lawmakers follow suit. Connecticut already hosts a similar measure, where employers in the state must issue written notice to employees if they’re being electronically monitored.

Per the New York monitoring law, private employers must issue a notice in a “conspicuous place” that conveys their monitoring practices to their workforce. Any new hires must receive a written notice and acknowledge receipt of said notice.

The New York law focuses on target monitoring–for instance, reading emails or web browsing history–but general network services or cybersecurity tools fall beyond the scope of the law, according to Mark Francis and Sophie Kletzien, lawyers at the Miami-based law firm Holland & Knight. The attorneys point to network firewalls, spam, and phishing filters as examples of what would be exempt from the law. 

Employers who choose to skirt the law and fail to notify their workforce about their monitoring practices are subject to fines ranging from $500 to $3,000. “We typically expect enforcement actions to be considered by the New York attorney general’s office if they receive complaints from employees, learn of possible violations reported in public or social media, or discover the issue during an investigation they are undertaking,” Francis and Kletzien tell Inc. 

Employee tracking software isn’t new. As companies embraced remote work during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, many turned to tracking programs to keep tabs on their employees and measure productivity. But outside of the legality of the practice, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of deploying such tools and how they may weigh on company culture. 

Even though this law only applies to New York, other states could adopt similar laws given the uptick in monitoring tools in recent years. Francis and Kletzien acknowledge that it’s likely other states will enact similar laws as more companies use monitoring tools for productivity, security, and navigating a remote workforce. 

“Businesses may even encourage the adoption of such laws since they recognize the ability of employers to engage in electronic monitoring, although they will likely seek some uniformity in disclosure and acknowledgment requirements,” Francis and Kletzien say.

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