Hi, I’m Asim Qureshi, the CEO and co-founder of Jibble, a cloud-based time and attendance software. I have several years of experience in building and scaling software products and teams across various industries and markets. Before I founded Jibble, I worked as a VP at Morgan Stanley for six years. I’m passionate about helping businesses improve their productivity and performance through smart time management practices.
In the US, employers are generally permitted to track their employees’ location while they are on the clock, using GPS tracking as a way to ensure that employees are where they’re supposed to be when they need to be there. Employee GPS tracking can also help employers comply with labor laws and requirements, helping employers adhere to laws, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which mandates accurate recording of work hours to ensure fair compensation.
More and more companies use time tracking and attendance apps that have a GPS tracking feature. These apps enable employees to easily clock in and out, track their working hours, check in and out of different locations, and more.
While the motivation for this type of audit is clear, but the question remains: is employee GPS tracking legal in the US? The short answer is yes, it’s legal- with certain caveats and conditions that employers have to meet to make sure that everything is above board.
GPS tracking has a range of advantages for both employer and the employees, but it’s not without risks. However, when used properly, employers and employees can benefit from the use of GPS tracking apps.
In this article we’ll dive a little deeper into the legality of employee GPS tracking in the US, the laws that govern this practice, as well as its risks, and benefits, so that you can make a better decision on whether you should be doing it or not.
This Article Covers:
- What is Employee GPS Tracking?
- Is Employee GPS Tracking Legal in the US?
- Are There Different State Laws on GPS Tracking Employees?
- What are the Benefits of GPS Tracking Employees?
- What are the Risks of GPS Tracking Employees?
- What are the Best GPS Tracking Practices for Employers?
What is Employee GPS Tracking?
Employers use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to monitor the location and movements of employees during work hours. This technology can be used to track employees who work remotely and on-site, as well as employees who have to travel for work.
Companies use GPS tracking for a variety of reasons, including monitoring employee productivity, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations, tracking company equipment, and more.
Is Employee GPS Tracking Legal in the US?
Yes, employee GPS tracking is legal in the US, with no states outright declaring it illegal. The FLSA, which mandates accurate recording of work hours to ensure fair compensation, doesn’t specifically mention anything about companies tracking employees via GPS. The critical element to note is that it is legal so long as employees are aware of and agree to having their movements and location tracked by their employer via GPS. It’s also important to note that companies should only track their employees during work hours.
Are There Different State Laws on GPS Tracking Employees?
Generally, employers in the US are legally allowed to track the location of their employees as long as their employees consent to the use of GPS tracking apps and devices.
However, there are some specific requirements when GPS tracking involves the movement of cars. These can vary by state.
Employers have the legal right to track the location of company cars, regardless of whether or not their employees consent. Employees need express consent in order to be otherwise tracked.
Employers can only track company-owned cars during work hours. However, if employees use their own cars for work, employers must first obtain their consent before tracking them.
In the case of Tubbs v. Wynne Transport (S.D. Texas 2007), the court dismissed an invasion of privacy claim against an employer who used information gathered by a GPS device on a company-owned vehicle driven by the employee. It found that employers can track the location and movements of company-owned cars during work hours.
Generally, employers have the right to track company cars, and this right supersedes the employee’s right to privacy. However, there are limits to the extent of GPS tracking, which employers should be aware of.
According to an article in the Florida Law Review titled “GPS and Cell Phone Tracking of Employees,” employers can GPS track employee-owned cars as long as they have their employees’ consent. However, employers can legally track cars as long as they’re company-owned.
These are just a few examples of where various US states stand with regard to employee GPS tracking. It would be worth investigating your particular state, in order to ensure compliance with laws and regulations on the matter.
What are the Benefits of GPS Tracking Employees?
Employers use GPS to track their employees for a variety of reasons, including:
- Monitoring productivity: With the data provided by GPS tracking, managers can gain insight into employee movements. This can help them assess whether or not productivity is being maximized.
- Ensuring compliance: GPS tracking can help companies stay compliant with certain regulations. This includes accurately tracking and recording the hours worked by employees in compliance with FLSA requirements.
- Monitoring employee safety: GPS tracking can show managers where field employees are, which can help ensure the safety of employees. This can be especially helpful if employees have to go to potentially dangerous locations or situations, or if they have to operate dangerous equipment.
- Monitoring employee efficiency: Managers can use data gleaned from GPS tracking to assess employee performance. They can check if employees punctually arrive at the site when it’s time for their shift.
- Preventing theft: By tracking the whereabouts of employees during work hours, employers will also be able to track the location of company equipment, such as company cars. GPS tracking can also prevent the unauthorized use of said equipment.
What are the Risks of GPS Tracking Employees?
GPS tracking software and devices can experience bugs glitches, and other kinds of failures. The risks therefore include:
- Privacy and cybersecurity concerns: Real-time location tracking can raise some privacy concerns for employees. There’s also the possibility of cybersecurity attacks, which can compromise employees’ personal data as well as the company’s data.
- Decrease in employee morale: GPS tracking, when not introduced properly, can make employees feel that their managers don’t trust them to do their jobs correctly. This can have a negative impact on employee morale.
- Potential legal issues: Mismanaging the deployment of GPS tracking apps and the data they collect can open the company up to legal issues concerning employee monitoring.
- Potential micromanagement: With the option for a manager to track the locations of their employees during work hours, the potential for micromanagement is increased. This poor management technique can lead to resentment and decreased motivation in employees.
What are the Best GPS Tracking Practices for Employers?
Here are some quick tips that can help you ensure that GPS tracking won’t be misused or lead to problems for your company:
Have a Well-Defined Policy in Place
Develop a company-wide policy that outlines the parameters of employee GPS tracking, including that it will be limited to working hours only and require the written consent of employees. It should also stipulate the acceptable and unacceptable uses of company-owned equipment.
Communicate Clearly to Employees
This policy, together with its purpose, needs to be clearly explained to all staff members. Employees need to be fully aware that their location will be tracked while using company equipment, during working hours, or both. Have an open discussion about GPS tracking with your employees and address any concerns they might have.
Stay Within the Bounds of the Law
Consult with lawyers or HR professionals to ensure that you are using GPS tracking systems appropriately. Make sure that the data collected from GPS tracking is being used to enhance productivity and identify areas for improvement. Do not use the data for micromanaging or disciplining employees.
Consent is the most important aspect in discussions around employee GPS tracking. While there are currently no federal laws specifically prohibiting employers from GPS tracking their employees, employers still have to make sure that they have their employees’ consent to being monitored.
Ultimately, it is illegal in the US to track an employee who does not consent to GPS tracking.
GPS tracking is a powerful tool that can be used to improve employee safety, productivity, and compliance. However, it is important for employers to be aware of the legal and ethical implications of using this technology. While there are benefits and risks to GPS tracking employees, companies need to make sure that they use it carefully.