Navigating Employee GPS Tracking in Ontario: What Employers Need to Know

By Christopher Stienburg - Roberts & Obradovic [ Join Cybersecurity Insiders ]
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In today’s digital age, the lines between work and personal life are often blurred, especially when it comes to employee monitoring. With advancements in technology, employers now have the capability to track their employees’ movements using GPS. But what does this mean for employees in Ontario, Canada? Can employers track you by GPS, and what are the implications for privacy?

The short answer is yes. Ontario, unlike some other jurisdictions, lacks specific private sector privacy legislation applicable to the employment relationship. This means that non-unionized private sector employers in Ontario can generally implement reasonable monitoring of employees through employer-owned information technology without strict limitations.

However, while employers have the right to monitor their employees, they must do so reasonably and transparently. Overly intrusive or unreasonable monitoring practices could potentially lead to liability through tort or wrongful dismissal claims, though such claims are rare in practice.

To mitigate risks and ensure clarity, it’s recommended for employers to implement an Electronic Monitoring Policy. This policy serves to minimize an employee’s reasonable expectation of privacy and, consequently, reduces the risk of legal claims.

Moreover, if you’re an employer in Ontario with over 25 employees, it’s not just a recommendation—it’s a legal requirement under the Employment Standards Act (ESA). This policy must clearly outline whether or not the employer engages in electronic monitoring of employees and include specific details such as the circumstances and purposes for which monitoring may occur.

For instance, electronic monitoring could include using GPS to track the movement of an employee’s delivery vehicle, tracking employee activity on company-issued devices, or monitoring internet usage during working hours. The policy must also specify the purposes for which information obtained through electronic monitoring may be used by the employer.

It’s important to note that the ESA requirement for an electronic monitoring policy does not impose new limits on an employer’s right to monitor employees. Instead, it ensures that employees are informed about monitoring activities.

In addition to complying with ESA requirements, employers must also consider their obligations under Ontario’s broader privacy regime. While the ESA addresses electronic monitoring specifically, public sector or unionized employers may be subject to additional privacy legislation or collective agreements that provide greater protections for employee personal information.

For public sector or unionized employers, notifying employees of electronic monitoring is just the first step. These employers must integrate their electronic monitoring policies into existing privacy practices and ensure compliance with all applicable laws and agreements.

Ultimately, the key to navigating employee GPS tracking in Ontario lies in transparency, reasonableness, and compliance with legal requirements. By implementing clear policies, respecting employee privacy, and maintaining open communication, employers can strike a balance between monitoring for legitimate business purposes and respecting employees’ privacy rights.

It’s essential to recognize that navigating the complexities of employee GPS tracking and electronic monitoring requires a nuanced understanding of both employment law and privacy regulations. While this article provides an overview of the general principles and requirements in Ontario, each situation may present unique circumstances that warrant tailored legal advice. Therefore, employers are strongly encouraged to seek guidance from experienced legal professionals with expertise in employment law and privacy regulations. Consulting with a knowledgeable business lawyer can help ensure that your electronic monitoring policies and practices align with legal requirements and best practices, minimizing potential risks and liabilities.

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About the Author:

Christopher Stienburg is a seasoned business lawyer and litigator at Roberts & Obradovic. With extensive experience, he has successfully represented clients in complex employment law disputes, elder abuse and estates cases, professional misconduct claims, commercial disputes, personal injury claims, and more. A graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School, Christopher is dedicated to helping individuals and businesses navigate the legal landscape.

Roberts & Obradovic is a business law firm in Toronto that deals with contractual agreements, business law, privacy law, and employment matters. For more information, visit our Business Lawyer page.

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