Securing a Workplace.. Legally
With terrorism and workplace violence in the news, workers are understandably concerned about their security. While there is no way to guard against every possibility, there are policies and relatively simple measures that employers can take to help secure a facility and protect personnel and property. Lack of adequate security can result in injury to employees and long-term economic disruption for companies. Employers need to address security concerns at the very highest level of the organization, integrate it into business operations and employment policies, and create awareness in every employee. When drafting or revising your security policy, you need to keep the following legal considerations in mind:
- The Occupational Safety and Health Act
The OSH Act contains a general duty clause requiring employers to provide a safe workplace. This may also include the safe handling of workplace mail.
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
You must take the disabled into account in any evacuation plans for your facility and in other security measures that affect access to buildings. The EEOC suggests that companies ask individuals to self-identify their need for assistance during an evacuation after an offer of employment has been made.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA requires evacuation plans for the disabled, but the law does not specify them. If you administer “personality tests,” confirm that such tests are not “medical” tests subject to the ADA.
- Employee Polygraph Protection Act
If you use polygraphs for applicants or employees, seek advice from counsel familiar with this law to ensure your company is in compliance.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
If your company runs security checks, be certain that your system does not have an adverse impact on protected groups and does not target a protected group.
- SARA Title III
The federal Emergency Preparedness and Community Right to Know Act of 1986, also known as SARA Title III, contains emergency response obligations for some industries.
- Workers’ compensation
Employees injured at work as a result of a security breach will normally have a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
- Checks required by state law
Some businesses, such as daycare and healthcare providers, may be required by state law to conduct background or criminal history checks.
Learn about applicable privacy laws as you write your policy. Consider whether your policies or practices create a right to privacy. For example, do you permit employees to place their own lock on their lockers and retain the only key?
There is no federal law limiting the right of private sector employers to set up hidden cameras or institute other clandestine security monitoring. However, in areas where there is a perceived sense of privacy (restrooms and locker rooms), employees should be advised that these areas are subject to surveillance.
An emergency can expose vital records and documents needed under various regulations to loss. It is advisable to store duplicates of such records outside the plant. As you can see, there is a legal minefield to navigate in drafting a workplace security policy.