Tracking Employees By GPS: Better Have a Good Policy

by Michael Haberman on February 14, 2012 · 8 comments

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision made it illegal for police departments to track people by use of a GPS device. (United States v. Jones, No. 10-1259). Naturally with that ruling the question of whether employers can track employees by the use of a GPS, especially in a smart phone, was raised. The consensus of many attorneys was if you are tracking employees by GPS you had better have a good policy in place.

In a SHRM article writer Allen Smith says “An employer is on safer ground using GPS devices to track employees if it has a policy that instructs employees that it may use tracking devices to monitor employees’ whereabouts during work hours and will not monitor them outside work hours.” Attorney Phillip Gordon of Littler Mendelson took it further and said “The more prudent practice would be to have the employee sign an agreement permitting the installation of the GPS device or activation of the GPS capability on a smart phone.” Naturally I believe it would also have to be a company issued smart phone.

A further step would be to explain to employees that the device would be to the benefit of the employee in that it could be used to corroborate an explanation of presence at a customer’s location when the customer disputes something like a service call. I can think of a situation where a customer might dispute a service technician presence when in reality it was the customer who was not present. It can also be used as a safety mechanism for traveling employees.

In a situation where the employer may be using the GPS device to impose discipline, Gordon said, he “would recommend that the employer be candid about it but also assure that employment decisions will not be based exclusively on location information. Doing some investigation is important because GPS devices are accurate only to between 50 and 100 feet and an employee could have an innocent explanation for having been at a particular location at a particular time.

There is potential for abuse in having GPS tracking capabilities, however, these are potential landmines of trouble for employers if this tracking is done after hours. The potential problems include invasion of privacy (which will vary state to state); violations of the National Labor Relations Act if being used to track potential union activity; and even violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act if tracking employee whereabouts could be considered compensable time.

As with any policy, any company moving to GPS tracking needs to communicate, communicate and communicate more the workings and benefits of this policy.

If you currently have a GPS tracking policy please let us know how it is working. What other benefits or pitfalls should the rest of us know about?

Sign up for free HR Solutions updates via email

Omega HR Solutions, Inc. uses creative human resource solutions to provide answers to time, money and service issues with employers and their employees. Visit our Products and Services page for more information or contact us to learn how we can help your organization.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

website hosting advice December 28, 2013 at 10:04 am

Do yoou mind if I quotte a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back tto
your website? My wegsite iis in the very saame area oof interest as
yours and my visitors would certainly beefit from a lot of the information you provide
here. Please let me know if thyis okay with you. Appreciate


Michael Haberman December 31, 2013 at 11:04 am

Quotes with attribution are fine. Thanks.


butter chicken receipe March 24, 2014 at 12:22 pm

I absolutely love your blog and find a lot of your post’s to be exactly what I’m looking for.
Does one offer guest writers to write content for you? I wouldn’t mind publishing a post or elaborating on a number of the subjects you write related to here.

Again, awesome web site!


Aron March 29, 2014 at 6:10 pm

Working for a Public agency we have gps installed on our vehicles. We are required to be on-call for which we are not paid until a call comes in. The system they are using has an option for a Geofence that will alert upper managers when we enter or leave our homes. We are allowed to use these vehicles as our personal vehicles during the week we are on-call. In my opinion they are tracking us during non-working hours and we should be paid standby time if they are going to track us after hours and make us use these vehicles. What are your thoughts?


Michael Haberman March 31, 2014 at 10:09 am

The law basically makes a distinction between “engaged to be waiting” and “waiting to be engaged”. The first one is you are on-call and your activity is restricted thus keeping you from being able to do personally whatever you want. That is typically paid time. If you are just on call but free to do whatever you want you just need to respond to calls then that is typically not paid time. Certainly if you are using a GPS company truck in off hours you are being tracked. If you don’t want to be tracked, don’t use the truck.


squash rackets September 24, 2014 at 5:57 am

Very good website you have here but I was curious if you knew of any forums that cover the same topics discussed here?
I’d really love to be a part of group where I can get advice from other knowledgeable individuals that
share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please
let me know. Thanks!


Leave a Comment

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: