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The Legal and Compliance Aspects of GPS Tracking: Key Considerations for Employers

Louie M. | March 28, 2023

Summary: If you are an employer thinking about using GPS tracking to monitor your employees, there are certain steps you can take to make sure you abide by rules, regulations and laws concerning this type of tracking. These steps include the following: use the right GPS tracking device, establish a clear GPS tracking policy, notify your employees in writing, get your employees’ consent, and safeguard employee data.

GPS tracking has become common among employers in various industries, from delivery services to construction companies. This technology brings many benefits, such as automated workflows, improved efficiency, and safety, just to name a few.

However, not following the GPS tracking best practices can put employers at legal and compliance risks, leading to serious consequences.

As a result, employers who opt for GPS tracking must understand the various laws and regulations related to the use of this technology. They also must be well aware of all the privacy concerns it raises for employees.

So, if you’re an employer considering GPS tracking as a way to monitor your employees, here are the key legal and compliance aspects for you to consider.

Is employee GPS tracking legal?

When it comes to tracking employees, many decision-makers often ask a fundamental question: “Is it legal to use GPS for employee tracking?”

The good news is that it is as long as you follow the relevant laws and best practices. During regular work hours and on company-owned vehicles, tracking your employees’ location via GPS is generally legal in most states. However, there are some restrictions on tracking outside of working hours and on personal vehicles.

But you should know a few more essential things about tracking employees, which we’ll cover individually.

What does the federal law say?

US Federal Law does not address the matter of employee GPS tracking.

However, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) might give you an idea of what can be considered an invasion of employees’ privacy, helping you avoid potentially harmful actions.

This law restricts employers from intentionally intercepting electronic communications without the employee’s consent and a legitimate business reason.

What about state laws?

Many states have tried to regulate the area additionally by implementing state-level laws. As these vary significantly, employers must ensure that their GPS tracking practices are permitted in the states where they operate.

We’ll briefly introduce some of them:

  • California. Under the Penal Code Section 637.7, tracking locations is illegal without consent. This also applies to tracking vehicles, regardless of whether the company or an employee owns them. So, to use GPS tracking in California, you must notify your employees and get their consent.

  • Texas. As found in the case of Tubbs v. Wynne, businesses can legally track company-owned vehicles during working hours. However, employers must get effective consent to install a GPS device on a personally-owned or leased vehicle.

  • Florida. If a vehicle is company-owned, employers can use a GPS tracking device for legitimate business reasons. However, they must obtain employees’ consent to install a GPS tracker into personally owned vehicles.

  • Connecticut. Businesses in Connecticut must notify their employees in writing of any electronic monitoring in the workplace. In addition, installing a GPS tracking device in an employee-owned vehicle without the employee’s consent is not permitted.

  • New York. Businesses can use GPS to track company-owned vehicles. However, they must acquire employees’ constant to track a personally owned vehicle. In addition, as ruled in the Cunningham v. New York Department of Labor case, tracking employees’ whereabouts is restricted to working hours only.

And the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?

Even though the EU doesn’t have specific laws related to employee monitoring, most companies use GDPR for reference.

So, suppose some of your employees are located within the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). In that case, you must also consider GDPR and comply with its principles.

To sum up, you can monitor your employees from these regions if you:

  • Have a legitimate reason for data collection.
  • Obtain informed and explicit consent for monitoring.
  • Provide employees with access to their data.
  • Secure employee data from unauthorized access or disclosure.

Consider these legal regulations before using GPS tracking

This is a brief and non-exhaustive overview of some GPS tracking area regulations.

Even though the legislation varies, there are similarities in the issues they address regarding employee privacy:

  • Informing employees about GPS tracking
  • Employee consent
  • Ownership of a vehicle or device
  • Legitimate basis for employee monitoring
  • Whether GPS tracking is limited to working hours
  • Measures to secure data access, confidentiality, and safety

As the legislature in this area is constantly improving, you must keep track of relevant regulations and update your procedures accordingly to stay on the right side of the law.

Follow these five steps to comply

Following the best practices in employee GPS tracking can protect employees’ privacy and secure their data. But, at the same time, the following steps will still allow you to reap all the benefits of this technology.

Here is what you should do to ensure compliance.

1. Choose the right GPS tracking device

Different GPS trackers are on the market today, so you should first check what makes the most sense for your business.

Besides GPS tracking hardware that you can install on vehicles or give to your employees for monitoring purposes, many software solutions are available that your staff can download and use on their mobile devices.

The best GPS employee tracking app should have safeguards to track your employees only while they’re on the clock, so you will have no problem adhering to regulations.

Ensure your employees know how to use the GPS tool you opt for before you start monitoring. Onboarding and training sessions are always welcome to clear any doubts regarding the use.

2. Establish a clear GPS tracking policy

When you have an idea of the tools you will use for tracking, you can put a comprehensive compliance program in place.

The first step is establishing a clear employee GPS tracking policy. The policy must fit your business needs but also follow the relevant legislation.

The policy should contain the following:

  • The purpose. It should be clear from your policy why you are opting for a GPS tracking solution. If you explain how it will benefit the company and employees, you are less likely to experience employee pushback. So, think about the processes you’re trying to improve and state them in your policy. For example, if you’re running a delivery business, some benefits you can mention are improving your drivers’ safety on the road, route optimization, or proof of work.

  • Limitations. Specify how and when data will be collected. For example, you can clarify that data will only be gathered during business hours.

  • Explain how the GPS tracking system works. As various GPS tracking tools are available, give information on the solutions your business will use for monitoring.

  • Define the type of data you will collect. Give information about data that will be gathered during monitoring. This will largely depend on the tool of your choice and your business needs. Besides employees’ location, some of these tools can provide you with additional information, such as traveling speed, idle time, rapid starts, hours of service, etc.

  • Provide information on data security measures. For example, explain how you will protect your employees’ data, who will have access to it, and how long you will keep it.

3. Notify your employees in writing

Besides the GPS tracking policy, one of the critical aspects of compliance is providing transparent written notice to employees.

Inform your staff about GPS tracking, including the purpose of the monitoring, the collected data, and how it is used. Also, explain their rights regarding collecting and using their data.

4. Get employees’ consent

Acquiring your employees’ written consent is another best practice for compliance with GPS tracking.

You must also ensure that your employees understand what they consent to and that their consent is obtained voluntarily.

5. Take measures to safeguard your employees’ data

GPS data is sensitive and may contain personal data that can put your employees at certain risks, such as identity theft.

Therefore, you must have adequate measures to protect data, including securing GPS devices and using encryption and access controls. Also, ensure you limit access to GPS data to authorized personnel only.

Employee tracking the right way

GPS technology can help your business streamline operations and boost productivity and efficiency. But as it brings many risks to employees’ privacy, you must follow the best practices to use it safely.

The steps we’ve discussed in this article, such as implementing a GPS tracking policy, notifying your employees, and getting their consent for tracking, are some of the successful ways to ensure your compliance.

However, as technology improves, so does the law. Therefore, you must keep track of all the changes and update your practices timely.

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