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Could New Jersey co-workers violate employee privacy?

Have you ever had an employer ask personal questions or request personal documents? Many employees have had these types of inquiries and requests made by their employer. This becomes a difficult and uncomfortable situation for the employee. These situations create an uncertain question of how much information can an employer legally request and the potential consequences to employees for noncompliance. Employee privacy is an employee right that often is not understood and under enforced.

New Jersey's Department of Treasury is currently investigating a claim of employee privacy violations. The allegation comes from the claim that employees looked at their co-worker's income tax records. The allegation is that employees are essentially spying on their co-workers' private financial information.

The employees were using Department of Treasury database to review other employees' records. Even though the investigation remains ongoing, four employees have already been fired and one other employee has resigned. The investigation indicates no reports have been made that improper observation of non-employee income tax records has been made.

Spying on employees could be a violation of employee privacy rights. Although privacy rights while at work may be limited in comparison to an expectation of privacy at home or in a public area, employees still have privacy rights while at work. Employee privacy while at work generally depends on the type and purpose of the obtained information. The possible privacy violation that occurred at the Department of Treasury could have implications. The privacy violations could implicate other employees involved in the incidents and the actions or failure to act by the employer.

Source:, "N.J. Dept. of Treasury investigates claim employees spied on co-workers' tax records," Jarrett Renshaw, April 23, 2012

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