Tracking employee information through global positioning systems (GPS)—in particular, on company vehicles driven by employees—is becoming commonplace. Location information is transmitted to a server via the cell phone network (and sometimes via satellite phone service) and is then available to the company through the web or mobile apps.
As the cost of GPS drops and the number of mobile workers rises—by some accounts, to as much as 75 percent of the workforce by 2020—companies are depending on GPS to monitor the movement of personnel and products to improve customer service and help with time management. “I wanted to see how much time was spent on each job,” says one small business owner with a fleet of seven service vehicles. “We’ve had a few problems in the past—people weren’t where they said they’d be. With GPS, we can defend ourselves to the customers. We know how fast the drivers drove, what route they took, and how long they spent on each job.” Late in 2017, four wastewater plant mechanics employed by the city of Modesto, California, were fired after GPS showed they used “work hours to socialize at the lift stations with [each other], go home, shop, sleep and drive around in the City utility vehicle.”
Companies are not only tracking vehicles, but many now track employees through their mobile phones. Understandably, many employees don’t like the idea of Big Brother following their every move; most states allow employers to track their employees’ location even in off hours. Many employees take their company vehicles home after their shifts, but even employees with company-owned phones may be tracked after hours, too.
Surveys show that many GPS-tracked employees have serious concerns about after-hours tracking, micromanagement, and privacy [https://www.tsheets.com/gps-survey]. In 2015, a woman in California sued her employer, claiming that she was tracked 24 hours a day through her company-issued iPhone. And when she uninstalled the tracking app, she was fired.
Using a web search tool, locate articles about this topic, and then write responses to the following questions. Be sure to support your arguments and cite your sources.
Ethical Dilemma: Do GPS devices constitute an invasion of employee privacy? Are there guidelines companies can develop for appropriate GPS use?
Sources: Kevin Valine, “Modesto Disciplines Sewer Workers for Goofing Off,” The Modesto Bee, http://www.modbee.com, January 1, 2018; Kaveh Waddell, “Why Bosses Can Track Their Employees 24/7,” The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com, January 6, 2017; Andrew Burger, “IDC: Mobile Workers Will Make Up Nearly 75 Percent of U.S. Workforce,” http://www.telecompetitor.com, June 23, 2015; David Kravets, “Worker Fired for Disabling GPS App That Tracked Her 24 Hours a Day,” Ars Technica, https://arstechnica.com, May 11, 2015.