More and more employers are investing in devices that can track their employees with the Global Positioning System (GPS). Pagers, cell phones and other devices can include GPA tracking. Employers can use the available information to record delivery times, travel speeds, hours of work and employee locations. The Baltimore Sun reported this week about how the local police department is using an officer’s BlackBerry tracking in the investigation of an officer accused of sexual assault. The department spent $3.5 million in stimulus money to issue the devices to its officers, and it is now using them to assess the alleged victim’s claims. Some trucking companies are using the data to corroborate a driver’s logbook, but others avoid using any devices that could interfere with drivers who are pressured to drive longer than allowed and then keep a "legal" log instead of an honest one. My friend David Marshall of Katz, Marshall & Banks, LLP here in Washington reports that he once used an employer’s GPS tracking information to compute a client’s hours of work and win an case for unpaid overtime. I can imagine this new technology creating both opportunities and risks for whistleblowers. In transportation, for example, knowing that the employer has GPS tracking information may pressure some employees to blow the whistle on supervisor pressure to drive too fast or too far. Keep in mind, the employer will own this information and may chose to use it selectively. Workers who do what they are told without asking questions may have their violations overlooked. Whistleblowers may be cherry picked for discipline. Unions may ask for equal access to GPS data during the investigation of grievances or in collective bargaining. Whistleblowers may seek the data in discovery to prove employer knowledge of violations, or to show disparate treatment. Some devices, including cell phones, can be active even when they are turned off. Of these, some may be disabled by removing the battery. Whistleblowers need to be familiar with the technology assigned to them and mindful of how they and their employers can use it.
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