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Privacy in the workplace

Privacy in the workplace is one of the most burning and charged issues nowadays and it’s widely discussed internationally. It’s necessary to begin the exploration of the topic of privacy in the workplace with stating that privacy as the basic and fundamental human right is of particular importance for the Americans; the right to privacy has always been central to our major liberties and freedoms. It’s alarming and dangerous that the right to privacy is gradually shrinking, even in the democratic countries.

The Information Age initiated a paradigm shift in the sphere of privacy; the contemporary meaning of this concept is much wider and more complicated. The existence of computer data banks makes it easier to store large amounts of personal information about the employees. Companies’ position concerning privacy right issues almost in every case clashes with the interests of the employees who want to protect their personal information. An astonishing number of privacy-related lawsuits has been filed in recent years.

One of the most controversial issues related to workplace privacy is associated with background checks. Virtually every company conducts a certain form of verification of potential employees’ past records. Background checks are often initiated to avoid further allegation or reputation threats.

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Sometimes this background checks are needed, for instance, to ascertain the veracity of the CV of the potential worker – a large number of CVs contain falsified information.

In fact, there are certain aspects that can be lawfully included in a background check, namely driving records, Social Security number, bankruptcy records, property ownership, past employments, vehicle registration, education records, military records, personal references, credit records, criminal records, medical records, drug test records, and sex offender records (Nadell, 2004). In the vast majority of cases, background checks are conducted within the framework of existed laws and are justified by the objective necessity to know truthful information about potential workers.

However, there are cases when employers cross the line and try to collect confidential information about their employers. In fact, nowadays there exists a conflict of the individual liberties against the needs of the organization, because more employees’ privacy would limit corporate liability. Ellen Alderman and Caroline Kennedy state that employer v. employee conflict is redoubled by the increase of the health security costs and higher liability for the workers’ deeds:

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