Massachusetts law about employee privacy

Laws, selected cases, regulations, web and print sources on employee and workplace privacy law.

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Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c. 93H Security breaches (unauthorized access or use of data in any format)

MGL c. 149, § 19B Lie detector tests; use as condition of employment; penalty; civil action

MGL c. 149, § 52C Personnel records: inspection by employee.

MGL c. 214, § 1B Right of privacy

MGL c. 272, § 99 Interception of wire and oral communications
Also known as the “Massachusetts Eavesdropping Act,” prohibits unauthorized interception of wire and oral communications with exceptions. See D. Exemptions 1.b. allowing interception of wire or oral communications while using “an office intercommunication system which is used in the ordinary course of …business.”

Massachusetts regulations

201 CMR 17.00 Standards for the protection of personal information of residents of the Commonwealth [by those who own or license personal information]

940 CMR 27.00 Safeguard of personal information; requirements to protect the privacy of consumer and employee information

Federal laws

18 USC secs 2510-2523 Electronic Communications Privacy Act

Selected cases

Bratt v. International Business Machines Corp., 392 Mass. 508 (1984)
Disclosure of an employee's private information among other employees or to the public must be unreasonable to constitute invasion of privacy. Employers may be able to disclose this information if they have a reasonable business interest in doing so. 

Garrity v. John Hancock Mut. Life Ins. Co., 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8343 (2002)
Found that if no assurances of privacy have been given by employer, an employee has no reasonable expectations of privacy on their work email.

Webster v. Motorola, Inc., 418 Mass. 425 (1994)
The validity of an employer mandating random drug tests must be weighed on a case-by-case basis, considering whether an individual employee’s right to privacy outweighed the employer’s interests.

Gauthier v. Police Comm'r of Boston, 408 Mass. 335 (1990)
The firing of a police cadet after a positive drug test was not a violation of privacy because the testing was in the public interest.

Web sources

An employer’s guide to hidden cameras in the workplace, David B. Wilson (Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, 2005).

Interfering with employee rights (Section 7 & 8(a)(1)), National Labor Relations Board.
States that an employer may not "photograph or videotape employees engaged in peaceful union or other protected activities" as it violates 29 USC Sec 158 which prohibits an employer attempting to "interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees" in exercising their right to unionize.

Safeguarding trade secrets in the information age, FindLaw.
Discusses employee privacy rights regarding email monitoring, polygraphs, and more and also suggests company policies regarding monitoring employees to protect trade secrets.

Somebody’s watching me: employee monitoring, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, June 2019.

State laws on social media password requests by employers, Nolo. 

Workplace drug testing in Massachusetts, Nolo.

Print sources

Advising employers and employees on off-duty conduct and privacy in the workplace, MCLE, 2019.

Drafting employment documents in Massachusetts, MCLE, 2021.
Chapter 11: Privacy in the workplace.

Labor and employment in Massachusetts, 2d ed., LexisNexis, loose-leaf.
Chapter 9: Employee Privacy.

Massachusetts employment law, 6th ed., MCLE, 2024.
Chapter 21: Privacy in the workplace.

Massachusetts practice v.45 (Employment law), Thomson Reuters, with supplement. 
Chapter 10: Privacy in the Workplace.

Massachusetts practice v. 57 (Construction law), West, Yearly editions.  
Sections 10:98 through 10:104 - Privacy in the workplace.

Your rights in the workplace by Sachi Barreiro, Nolo, 2018. (eBook available with library card).

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Last updated: June 11, 2024

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