GPS is a great tool to help employers track inventory, report on timeliness of drivers and deliveries, confirm business use of vehicles, provide security to employees, monitor overtime and compliance with labor laws, and ensure compliance with safety regulations such as speeding, and the like. Typically, GPS is either installed directly on a vehicle or as an application on a smartphone. In most instances, the use of GPS is legal, as long as certain guidelines are followed.
If you install a GPS tracking device on a vehicle the company owns, then there is no legal requirement to disclose the installation of GPS. However, if you install GPS on a personally owned vehicle, you must get the owner’s consent in writing prior to installation and usage.
The use of GPS data should be reasonable. Essentially this means that you should only track employees during business hours on business days. (You can monitor company owned vehicles 24/7 as long as there is no permitted personal use of the vehicle.)
Some examples help illustrate the simple principles:
- One employer had employees use a GPS application on their smartphones. An employee had a habit of calling in sick on peak busy days. The employer used the GPS application and determined that the employee was in Atlantic City at a casino, and not at home sick in bed as claimed. They terminated his employment and successfully defended it in court. GPS usage permitted.
- One vending machine operator installed GPS on its own delivery trucks. It used the GPS data to determine whether or not an employee was near vending machines that had been vandalized. It determined that the employee was not responsible. GPS usage permitted.
- A state employee was under investigation for wrongdoing and was unaware that a GPS device was installed on his car. The agency collected information on his whereabouts for a lengthy period, including on a previously approved and planned vacation. Based on data collected, the agency fired the employee. The employee sued and won reinstatement, back pay and damages, however, since the scope of the GPS monitoring was not reasonable. GPS usage not permitted.
- One real estate company had employees install an application on their smartphones and required that the employees keep the phones on at all hours to answer client inquiries. A manager told one of his employees that he knew where she was going, what bars she liked, and that she had been speeding one day. She uninstalled the application and was terminated when she wouldn’t reinstall it. She sued for breach of privacy and other claims, seeking more than $500k in damages. The case was settled out of court for an unknown amount. GPS usage likely not permitted.
I am a proponent of all employers having Employee Handbooks, for a variety of reasons. If you use GPS to monitor employees, LOVE LAW FIRM advises the disclosure of the usage to employees and a description of how the information will be used, as well as penalties permitted if improper behavior is detected (i.e., a statement that the employee could be terminated).