GPS Tracking Employee Laws: What You Can (And Can’t) Do

Don’t subject yourself to risk. In this guide, we'll discuss the state and federal employee GPS tracking laws to help you stay compliant in 2023.
employee gps tracking
Time Tracking Fundamentals
Understanding Labor Laws
GPS Tracking
Tracking More Than Time
Time Tracking Benefits
Choosing A System
Implementing A System
Time Tracking Fundamentals
Understanding Labor Laws
GPS Tracking
Tracking More Than Time
Time Tracking Benefits
Choosing A System
Implementing A System

Accurately Track Employee Hours & Locations With Workyard

GPS tracking technology is a powerful tool that can be employed in several ways, from monitoring the location of company vehicles to tracking the movements of individual employees. However, as useful as GPS tracking can be, it also raises some potential ethical and legal questions concerning privacy and employee rights

This article will review the various aspects of GPS tracking in the workplace, shedding light on what employers can and cannot do when it comes to monitoring their staff. We’ll discuss the potential benefits, limitations, and possible legal pitfalls, as well as best practices to ensure that employers remain within the boundaries of the law while respecting employee privacy.

GPS Tracking Employees: Federal Laws

Understanding the federal laws that govern GPS tracking employees and vehicles is crucial for employers looking to implement this technology without violating the rights of their workers. In the United States, there is no overarching federal law that specifically regulates GPS tracking in the workplace. However, several existing laws can be applied to GPS tracking scenarios and must be considered to ensure compliance.

Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)

The ECPA, enacted in 1986, primarily addresses the interception and disclosure of electronic communications. 

While it does not specifically mention GPS tracking, the ECPA can be interpreted to cover the tracking of employees’ movements via GPS-enabled devices, especially if the data is transmitted electronically. Employers should be cautious in obtaining GPS tracking data and ensure they have the appropriate consent from employees before engaging in such activities.

Stored Communications Act (SCA)

The SCA is a part of the ECPA and is focused on protecting the privacy of stored electronic communications, including location data. 

Employers who access an employee’s GPS data without authorization may be in violation of the SCA. To avoid potential legal issues, employers should establish clear policies regarding GPS tracking and obtain the necessary consent from their employees.

Fourth Amendment

The Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protects individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures. 

While the Fourth Amendment primarily applies to government actions, it may be relevant to GPS tracking in rare cases where employers act on behalf of the government or when they provide information to law enforcement. In general, it is advisable for employers to obtain consent from employees and have a legitimate business reason for GPS tracking to minimize potential Fourth Amendment concerns.

Tracking Employees vs. Tracking Vehicles

There are some key differences in laws and regulations when it comes to using GPS tracking for tracking employees versus using it to track vehicles.

As mentioned, while no specific federal law governs employee tracking, tracking company-owned vehicles is generally considered legal and less intrusive, provided there is a legitimate business purpose for doing so. In the case of vehicles, employers have a greater claim to ownership and control over the assets, which means that they have more latitude in monitoring their use.

However, it’s essential to note that tracking vehicles may still implicate privacy concerns if employees also use the vehicle for personal purposes or if the tracking reveals personal information about them. To avoid potential legal pitfalls, employers should have clear policies in place that outline the permissible use of company vehicles and explicitly state that the vehicles may be subject to tracking.

While federal laws do not explicitly address GPS tracking in the workplace, existing laws such as the ECPA, SCA, and even the Fourth Amendment can have implications on employee tracking and help lay the groundwork for relevant state laws and company policies. 

Employers should be aware of these laws and take necessary precautions, like obtaining employee consent and having clear policies to ensure their GPS tracking practices are legally compliant and respectful of employee privacy.

GPS Tracking Employees: State Laws

Let’s take a closer look at some specific state laws regarding GPS tracking employees:

  • In California, it is legal to track employees during work hours. However, Californians have a constitutional right to privacy. Therefore, if you plan to track employees, make sure it’s not in violation of any union agreements and that there’s a documented tracking policy in place. 
  • In Texas, it is legal for employers to track company-owned vehicles during work hours, but companies will need their consent if the employee owns the vehicle. 
  • New York allows GPS tracking of employees while using company-owned vehicles, but consent is required for employee-owned vehicles, and tracking is limited to business hours.
  • In Pennsylvania and Florida, companies can track company-owned vehicles without consent, but for employee-owned vehicles, consent is required.
  • Illinois prohibits tracking devices on employee-owned vehicles, but companies can track company-issued vehicles. 
  • In Washington State, monitoring fleet vehicles’ location, speed, and movements are well within an owner’s rights.
  • In several states, including California, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, implanting Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) microchips to track employees is strictly prohibited.

Employee GPS tracking laws by state can vary greatly, and each state offers employees different levels of rights and protection. A general rule of thumb is that tracking company-owned property is legal, but tracking employees or their personal property without their consent is not.

GPS Tracking Laws: Why Do They Exist?

GPS tracking employees laws exist to balance an employer’s legitimate business interests with employees’ privacy rights. They seek to establish clear guidelines and boundaries for using tracking technology in the workplace while ensuring that both parties understand their rights and responsibilities.

One of the primary reasons GPS tracking laws exist is to protect employees’ privacy. By setting limits on how, when, and why employers can track their employees, these laws help to safeguard individual privacy rights and promote a healthy work environment.

GPS tracking can provide employers with valuable information that they can use to improve efficiency, ensure employee safety, and monitor the use of company resources. GPS tracking laws allow employers to utilize this technology for legitimate business purposes while ensuring their actions don’t infringe on employee privacy rights.

GPS tracking employees’ laws provide a framework for employers and employees to navigate the complex legal landscape surrounding this technology. By outlining the rights and responsibilities of both parties, these laws help to reduce the potential for disputes and litigation. This legal clarification benefits employers by minimizing the risk of expensive lawsuits and reputational damage while also protecting employees from potential abuses of power.

Finally, well-defined GPS tracking laws promote transparency and trust between employers and employees. When employees know their rights and understand the reasons behind their employer’s use of GPS tracking, they are more likely to accept and adopt the technology. This mutual understanding can improve employee morale, increase productivity, and strengthen working relationships between employers and employees.

Employee GPS Tracking: How to Stay Protected & Compliant 

To minimize legal risks and ensure compliance with GPS tracking laws, employers must take proactive measures in implementing GPS tracking technology. Two essential steps employers should take are establishing a comprehensive GPS tracking policy and investing in a reliable GPS tracking app.

Establish an Employee GPS Tracking Policy

An employee GPS tracking policy is a written document that outlines the company’s rules, guidelines, and procedures for using GPS tracking technology in the workplace. To ensure compliance and protect both employers and employees, your policy should include the following elements:

  • Purpose: Clearly define the legitimate business reasons for using GPS tracking, such as improving efficiency, ensuring employee safety, or monitoring company resources.
  • Scope: Specify the circumstances under which GPS tracking will be used, as well as which employees and vehicles will be subject to tracking.
  • Consent: Obtain written consent from employees, if state laws require, and ensure that they understand their rights and the company’s tracking policy.
  • Data Retention and Privacy: Describe how the collected GPS data will be stored, used, and protected to maintain employee privacy. Include information about data retention periods and how the data will be disposed of when no longer needed.
  • Compliance with Laws: Ensure the policy adheres to applicable federal, state, and local laws governing employee GPS tracking.
  • Policy Updates: Include a provision for periodic policy reviews and updates to ensure ongoing compliance with evolving laws and technology.

To implement the policy effectively, employers should train all employees, addressing the policy’s general contents, employee rights under it, and the reasons behind the tracking. Regular, clear communication and transparency can help foster employee trust and cooperation, ensuring a smoother implementation of GPS tracking technology in your organization.

Invest in an Employee GPS Tracking App

An employee GPS tracking app is a software tool designed to monitor and manage employee locations, work hours, and other relevant data. When selecting a GPS tracking app, employers should consider the following key features to ensure compliance and maximize the benefits of tracking:

  • Customizable Settings: Choose an app that allows for customization of tracking settings, enabling employers to comply with relevant laws and their own GPS tracking policy.
  • Data Security and Privacy: Ensure it implements robust data security measures to protect employee information from unauthorized access, tampering, or breaches.
  • User-Friendly Interface: Select an app with an intuitive interface that is easy for both employers and employees to use, reducing the likelihood of errors and misunderstandings.
  • Reporting and Analytics: Opt for an app with comprehensive reporting and analytics features, allowing employers to make data-driven decisions and monitor compliance with their GPS tracking policy.

To implement a GPS tracking app effectively, employers should provide training and support for employees, addressing the app’s features, functionality, and how it aligns with the company’s GPS tracking policy. Regularly monitoring the app’s performance and compliance with the policy can help identify areas for improvement and ensure ongoing legal compliance.

By establishing a well-defined GPS tracking policy and investing in a reliable GPS tracking app, like Workyard, employers can minimize legal risks and ensure compliance with applicable laws while maximizing the benefits of GPS tracking technology in the workplace.

How Workyard Can Help

Workyard is a cutting-edge GPS tracking and time clock app designed to cater to a wide range of industries, including the construction and field services industry. 

Offering a comprehensive suite of features tailored to the unique needs of these industries, Workyard stands out as the best GPS tracking app solution. Workyard helps employers improve overall efficiency, safety, and productivity across their organizations by providing real-time tracking, customizable settings, and a user-friendly interface.

Industry-Specific Features

Workyard understands the specific challenges and requirements of the construction and field services industries. With features such as real-time location tracking, job site geofencing, time tracking, and detailed reporting, Workyard allows employers to streamline their operations and optimize resource allocation. These tools enable companies to monitor progress on job sites, manage employee schedules, and ensure that projects stay on track and within budget.

Customizable Settings

Workyard offers customizable settings that enable employers to tailor the app to their specific needs and maintain compliance with applicable GPS tracking laws. With the ability to control when and how tracking occurs, employers can configure the app to align with their GPS tracking policy and the relevant legal requirements.

Data Security and Privacy

Protecting employee privacy and securing sensitive data is crucial for maintaining legal compliance and fostering employee trust. Workyard is committed to upholding the highest standards of data security and privacy. With robust encryption and secure storage protocols, Workyard ensures that employee information is protected from unauthorized access, tampering, or breaches.

User-Friendly Interface

Workyard’s intuitive interface makes it easy for both employers and employees to navigate and use the app. This user-friendly design minimizes the likelihood of errors and misunderstandings, allowing users to focus on their work and not struggle with complex software. Additionally, the app’s overall simplicity reduces the need for extensive training, saving time and resources for businesses.

Reporting and Analytics

Workyard provides comprehensive reporting and analytics features that empower employers to make data-driven decisions and monitor the effectiveness of their GPS tracking. Employers can identify trends and optimize their core workforce management strategies with access to detailed information on employee movements, job site attendance, and work hours.

Sign up for a free trial of Workyard today!

Leverage GPS Tracking in the Workplace

The use of GPS tracking technology in the workplace presents both opportunities and challenges for employers and employees. 

While employee GPS tracking may raise some concerns about privacy and compliance, it undoubtedly enhances efficiency, safety, and resource management. By establishing a well-defined GPS tracking policy, investing in a reliable GPS tracking app like Workyard, and maintaining total transparency with employees, employers can minimize their potential legal risks while maximizing the benefits of GPS tracking. 

Ultimately, understanding and respecting the boundaries of GPS tracking in the workplace creates a harmonious work environment that benefits both employers and employees alike, fostering trust and ensuring mutual success for everyone involved.

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