A new employee monitoring law went into effect in New York on Saturday requiring all private employers to notify employees if their internet, email or phone use is being monitored.
FingerLakes1.com recently spoke with Sabastian Piedmont, managing partner at Tully Rinckey PLLC’s Syracuse office, to discuss how the new law impacts employees, what compliance looks like for employers and potential penalties for non-compliance.
New hires vs. existing employees
The legislation comes as an amendment to New York’s Civil Rights Law. It was signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul in November of last year and went into effect on May 7, 2022.
According to Piedmont, employers that monitor their employees’ electronic activity must obtain “an acknowledgment and written consent” from new hires.
Employers whose monitoring relates to general system maintenance “wouldn’t need an acknowledgment from a new hire if they’re not monitoring anything else but still have a spam filter of firewall,” explained Piedmont.
The law also requires employers to post an annual notice to current employees of the types of electronic monitoring that may occur. According to the legislation, the notice must be posted in a “conspicuous place” where it can be viewed by all affected employees.
Employer compliance and civil violations
To avoid civil penalties, employers should already have made the necessary preparations to comply with the legislation before went into effect last week. Employers may incur a maximum civil penalty of $500 for the first violation, $1,000 for their second and $3,000 for each subsequent violation.
“I think the law is showing that New York is kind on the way to make relationships between employees and employer a bit more transparent,” said Piedmont.
The employee monitoring law doesn’t specify what notice is required for out-of-state employees working remotely for a New York-based company, though Piedmont anticipates the law would still apply in this scenario.
“The way I’ve seen a lot of people and attorneys interpreting the ‘place of business’ language [in the law] is that the Attorney General’s Office would be the state agency with the authority to oversee compliance,” he said. “Essentially, if your business is under the jurisdiction of the New York State Attorney General as a private employer, it probably would apply even if the worker were working remotely outside of the state.”