Employee GPS Tracking: The Ultimate Guide (2023 Update)

  • 10 min read
  • 10 min read
In this article, we cover everything you need to know about GPS tracking employees including the benefits, laws and regulations, tools to use, and how to implement employee GPS tracking policy at your company.
In this article, we cover everything you need to know about GPS tracking employees including the benefits, laws and regulations, tools to use, and how to implement employee GPS tracking policy at your company.

Accurate Employee GPS Tracking Is So Much Easier With Workyard

    In this article, we cover everything you need to know about GPS tracking employees including the benefits, laws and regulations, tools to use, and how to implement employee GPS tracking policy at your company.

    Can you legally track your employees?

    It’s important to understand the laws that govern employee GPS tracking. But there isn’t a lot to worry about. There are many industries leveraging GPS tracking to great effect, whether they’re deploying their employees with more efficiency, tracking employee mileage reimbursements, or just improving the accuracy & tracking of employee hours.

    The benefits of GPS tracking employees

    There are many benefits of GPS tracking employees for businesses:

      1. Improved productivity: GPS tracking can help businesses track the location and activity of their mobile employees in real-time, allowing them to identify and address any issues that may be causing delays or inefficiencies.

      1. 2. Reduced labor costs and accurate payroll: By tracking employee movements and activity, businesses can more accurately allocate resources and optimize routes, leading to cost savings. If a business has mobile employees in the field, capturing an accurate log of their hours can be difficult, GPS time clock apps eliminate this problem by enabling you to ensure every minute logged is a minute worked. Tightening up your payroll processes to ensure it’s accurate can save a business tens of thousands of dollars.
      1. 3. Accurate mileage reimbursements: If you have employees that are using their personally owned vehicles for work, you typically need a mileage tracking system in place so you can reimburse them per mile driven. Instead of having employees manually guess their miles driven, some employee GPS tracking apps will automatically calculate mileage for you.
      2. 4. Enhanced safety: GPS tracking can help businesses ensure the safety of their employees by providing real-time location information and alerts in case of emergencies.
      1. 5. Improved customer service: GPS tracking can help businesses track the progress of their employees and ensure timely delivery of goods or services, leading to improved customer satisfaction.

      6. Increased efficiency: By tracking employee movements and activity, businesses can identify and address bottlenecks or inefficiencies in their operations, leading to increased efficiency.

      7. Enhanced accountability: GPS tracking can help businesses hold their employees accountable for their time and activities, leading to improved accountability and reliability.

      1.  8. Reducing labor disputes: Having an accurate log of each the whereabouts of every employee for every minute worked is very helpful in labor dispute situations as evidence.

      GPS tracking laws and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)

      In the United States, there are federal and state laws that protect workers’ privacy. The main federal law is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which prohibits employers from secretly tracking their employees’ locations. However, the ECPA does allow employers to track employees if they have given their consent. An example of an ECPA violation would be a company that has GPS tracking on company cars but does not disclose the fact to its employees.

      In addition to the ECPA, there are state laws that protect workers’ privacy. For example, California has a law that requires employers to get written consent from employees before collecting or using their personal information, including their location data. 

      California’s laws emphasize privacy more than many other states, which could put employers in a gray area if they cannot show a strict need for GPS tracking.

      Importantly, there are no GPS tracking laws (either federal or state) that explicitly prevent you from tracking your employees while they are working, as long as you:

          • Have their consent

          • Have a reason to do so

        In fact, GPS tracking is frequently used to protect employees. When employees are out on the field, they may be vulnerable. GPS tracking reports their disposition and sends out red flags in the event that they aren’t where they’re expected to be. When employees are driving, especially during long hauls, GPS tracking reports when they are significantly off route—indicating that they could be distressed.

        Getting your employees on board with GPS tracking

        To get all of your employees onboard with GPS tracking, it is important to clearly communicate the reasons for implementing GPS tracking and how it will be used. This can help to address any concerns or questions that employees may have. Here are some additional steps you can take:

        1. Involve employees in the decision-making process: Consider soliciting input and feedback from employees before implementing GPS tracking. This can help to ensure that their concerns and needs are taken into account.

        2. Establish clear policies: Develop clear policies around the use of GPS tracking, including how the data will be collected, stored, and used. Make sure employees understand these policies and the consequences for violating them.

        3.Obtain employee consent: In some cases, it may be necessary to obtain consent from employees before tracking their location. Make sure to follow all relevant laws and regulations when obtaining consent.

        4. Protect employee privacy: Make sure to protect employee privacy by only tracking location data that is necessary for business purposes and by securely storing and handling the data.

        5. Provide training: Provide training to employees on the use of GPS tracking and how it will impact their work. This can help to ensure that the transition to GPS tracking goes smoothly.

        6. Monitor and review: Regularly monitor and review the use of GPS tracking to ensure it is being used effectively and in accordance with company policies. Be open to feedback from employees and make any necessary adjustments.

        Obtaining consent is one of the most important steps. For example, GPS time clock apps like Workyard make it clear that employees are consenting to GPS tracking and that they will only be tracked while clocked into work. Employees explicitly clock in and out of work every day using the app.


        Employee GPS tracking tool options

        There are several types of employee GPS tracking tools available:

        1. GPS tracking devices: These are small, portable devices that can be carried by employees and track their location using GPS. Some devices also include additional features such as real-time tracking and geofencing.

        2. Mobile GPS tracking apps: These are GPS tracker apps that can be installed on employees’ smartphones or tablets. These apps can track location, activity, and other data in real-time, however, they are often not designed to be used by employees

        3. Fleet management systems: These systems are designed to track and manage the movements of company owned vehicles, but can also be used to track the location of employees who are traveling in a company owned vehicle

        4. Employee GPS time clock apps: Some time and attendance systems include GPS tracking functionality, allowing businesses to track the location and activity of their employees.

        There are many pros and cons for each of these types of employee GPS tracking tools. Given almost everyone has a smartphone these days, its clear why employee GPS time clock apps are becoming the most popular choice:

        Employee location tracking case studies

        Here are some real-world examples or case studies of businesses that have successfully implemented GPS tracking and the benefits they have experienced as a result.

        Case Study 1 – AV Decking: April at AV Decking exceeded her goals by saving $150,000 in the first 6 weeks through improved payroll accuracy.

        Case Study 2 – Accord Group: Shiloh Hoggard used Workyard to save hundreds of man hours each week by more efficiently routing her field team.

        Case Study 3 – D&S Electric Group: Kathi Smith at D & S Electric saved $10,000 by eliminating payroll expenses caused by inaccurate time cards.

        Potential drawbacks of GPS tracking employees.

        While GPS tracking can offer many benefits to businesses, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider:

        1. Privacy concerns: GPS tracking can raise privacy concerns for employees, particularly if they feel that their location is being monitored at all times. It is important to address these concerns and establish clear policies around the use of GPS tracking to protect employee privacy.

        2. Cost: GPS tracking can be expensive, particularly if you need to purchase hardware and you have a large number of employees. GPS time clock apps tend to be much more affordable, because no hardware is required.

        3. Complexity: Implementing GPS tracking can be complex and may require a significant investment of time and resources to set up and maintain. Luckily there are now many modern easy-to-use GPS time clock apps that require next to no training.

        5. Dependence on technology: GPS tracking relies on technology, which can be prone to errors or malfunctions. This can lead to inaccurate tracking data and may require additional resources to troubleshoot and fix any issues.

        6. Resistance to change: Some employees may resist the implementation of GPS tracking, particularly if they feel that it is an invasion of their privacy or if they are not involved in the decision-making process. It is important to address these concerns and work to gain employee buy-in.

        Implementing an employee GPS tracking policy

        There are a number of practical considerations that employers should take into account when considering GPS tracking for their employees. These considerations will head off any potential legal issues before they become problems.

        Track Only Business-Related Activity

        If you’re going to track your field employees’ locations, do so only for work-related activities. 

        In the construction industry, there are many reasons why you would need to track your employees throughout their workday. You can track their travel time, when they’re on-site, and their current disposition. But there may be no reason to track your administrative staff. For administrative staff, you could track their hours (clock-ins and clock-outs), but not where they are.

        Get Consent From Your Employees

        Before you start tracking your employees’ locations, get their consent. This can be done through a written agreement or by having them sign a GPS tracking policy. Don’t have them download an app without telling them what the app does—and don’t have them install an app that “runs in the background.” Every layer of GPS tracking must be explicit.

        Be Clear About What You’re Tracking and Why

        When you’re collecting location data from your employees, be clear about what you’re tracking and why. For many companies, GPS tracking could be essential to how the organization operates—a work requirement. Even delivery and rideshare services today require GPS.

        In short, employees need to know that they’re being tracked and consent to GPS tracking. 

        Is GPS tracking an invasion of privacy?

        By far the most significant concern most employers have is that GPS tracking could be seen as an invasion of privacy. However, it isn’t an invasion of privacy as long as it meets the above criteria. It must be needed for work, it must only occur while on the job, and you must have consent. All these elements can be outlined in a comprehensive employee GPS tracking policy.

        How to create an employee GPS tracking policy

        You don’t need to develop a GPS tracking policy from scratch; you can consult with your legal department. Still, be aware that your GPS tracking policy should include the following.

          • What is the purpose of the tracking? For example, are you tracking employee travel routes, employee work time, site time, or all of the above?

          • How will the GPS tracking system work? Do they need to install an app on their phone or a device in their vehicle?

          • Who will have access to the GPS data? For example, any administrators or supervisors that can check the GPS.

          • How long will the GPS data be stored? How will the organization protect its data?

          • What will happen if an employee refuses to consent to GPS tracking? Are there alternatives in place, or is it a requirement of the job?

        Your GPS tracking policy should comply with all applicable state laws, such as the California Labor Code if you’re in California. Run your employee GPS tracking policy through HR before having employees sign it—and have employees sign it before instituting your GPS tracking policies.

        Get started with employee GPS tracking today 

        With Workyard, you can GPS track your entire crew without expensive hardware. In fact, you can start tracking and scheduling your employees as quickly as they can download an app. But you should still have a policy in place before you get started.

        Tracking your employees via GPS is not only legal—it’s a great way to streamline and improve your operations. Employees will quickly find that they no longer have to spend a lot of time micro-managing their schedule, mileage, and hours. Likewise, you’ll find that the time and mileage reported become a lot more accurate once everything is GPS-tracked.

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