The issue of privacy has continued to raise contention, both in the social circles and at the workplace. In consistent with this, people has continued to argue that they are entitled to lead private lives or on the other hand, maintain their privacy. Notably, whereas the workplace environment has had the nature of probing and trying to understand the private lives of its employees, there has been mixed reactions on whether this should be the case. Furthermore, the corporate world has continued to witness numerous court cases on violations issues of privacy at the workplace.
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To begin with, for anyone to claim that his or her privacy rights at the workplace have been violated or not, there must be an expectation of privacy. Notably, when employees expect their privacy to be maintained, then any contradictions would result in a violation. Yet, employers can go up to some level in violating these rights. In reference to Aspen Publishers & Casenotes (2008), the court has argued in the past that whereas an employee may enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy in the workplace, the nature of the workplace requires that the employee suffer various forms of infringements on his or her rights based on the particular circumstance (p.99). For instance, most companies and organizations in the United States employees drug-test procedures to ascertain that the employee does not abuse drugs. When a company sends an employee or prospective employee to us for a drug screening, we send them into a specially-equipped bathroom at one of our eight offices and ask them to provide a urine sample (Anonymous, 2001, p.21). Therefore, it is important to observe that most workplaces violate or rather interfere with the employees' privacy.
Looking at the privacy issues from a utilitarian point of view on invasion of privacy at the workplace, various important ethical issues come into view. First, it is important to understand that whereas the privacy of individuals at the workplace need to be observed, this can only be done up to a certain level. For instance, drug abuse is a private issue. However, when a person who abuses drug comes to the limelight and engage in other activities that involves the public, this no longer become a private issue since the people around such a person may be affected by his or her behavior. For instance, Inman (2009) quotes a case of the young Alex Rodriguez, a baseball player who admitted to having the habit of taking steroids. Notably, whereas this was a private affair, his privacy could not be respected in this case since he was a public figure who had a lot of influence on the society, or rather on young people who loved baseball. Particularly, when a person's life affected the other people's lives, then his or her privacy could not be respected, more so, when such behaviors were poised to ruin the workplace or in the case of Alex Rodriguez, a particular sport.
On the other hand, when the issue of privacy was approached from a deontological point of view, it was wrong to interfere with the privacy of a person whether for the good of other people or not. According to Mahmood (2005), personal autonomy on privacy is very important from a deontological perspective since is the basis of setting one's own norms, which in turn, is a central idea in Kantian morality (p.194). In this respect, individuals were fully entitled to having their own privacy which was expected to be respected by the rest of the society as this was seen as a way of allowing such individuals to develop their own values.
Arguing from this point of view, the implementation of drug-test policies in among businesses and organizations at their workplace was uncalled for since it violated the rights of these individuals. Notably such act did not support these individuals to come up with their own values on how they wanted to live their lives. Instead, such actions were found to prompt the management at the workplace to implement policies which required people to adhere to certain rules and regulations as a way of living. Similarly, such actions exposed the individual involved to certain procedures which violated their privacy and probably their moral values. For example, for business and organizations to ascertain whether their employees were using drugs, they carried out drug tests which in some cases had to follow weird procedures under taunting environments. An example of such an environment was bathrooms which were not typical because they had been prepared for purposes of getting the employees' urine and prevent any adulteration (Anonymous, 2001). This is irrespective of the new rules and regulations which have been formulated to protect individuals who tests positive for any of five illegal drugs namely; heroin, cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines and PCP (Zickerman, 2000, p.A24). Note that, whereas there are such protection rules, the fact remains that the person's privacy would have been violated.
In this regard therefore, the issue of privacy at the workplace was a broad subject which needed to be looked at from various perspectives before making conclusions on the specific point of view which needed to be adopted. Note that the point of view which was adopted at any place of workplace depended on whether the employer approached the issue from a utilitarian or deontological perspective. This was further coupled by the existing laws and regulations among them the protection of the employees' privacy at the workplace.
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