Employee GPS Tracking Policy 101: What Are the Laws?

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  • 10 min read
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Accurate Time Tracking Is So Much Easier With Workyard

    You know that GPS tracking won't just simplify your employee scheduling, it will make your organization more productive. But what are the laws regarding an employee GPS tracking policy?

    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 maintaining control over their work hours.

    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 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.

    Get Your Employees On Board With GPS Tracking

    While employees may not always be eager to accept GPS tracking, it can be to their benefit, too. Having an employee GPS tracking policy:

    • Reduces the time it takes for employees to report their own hours
    • Can reward employees for things like safe driving
    • Accurately tracks their mileage for travel and gas reimbursements
    • Provides proof that they were on-site on time

    GPS time clock apps like Workyard makes 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.

    Workyard’s precise GPS tracking system.
    A Time Card Produced By The Workyard GPS Time Clock

    Practical Tips for Employers Interested 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 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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