Whether navigating a shifting regulatory environment, incorporating new tactics for recruiting and retaining hourly workers or simply updating practices to stay current in a digital world, workers are at the center of many conversations in the manufacturing sector. As more industries undergo digital transformation, data, too, becomes an avenue for workplace violations to sneak in. National- and state regulations now stipulate data protection and privacy rules, with 48 states requiring specific processes around breach notification and the reporting of unauthorized access to an employee’s private data.
To avoid impinging upon employee privacy laws in the industrial sector, you need to be aware of these five common areas where private data is often exposed:
- Lack of Housekeeping
The speed of business in manufacturing makes it hard to keep up with the bureaucracy that is necessary. When employing hourly workers, the accumulation of employee data is unavoidable but managers and operators need to practice proper housekeeping when it comes to holding on to out-of-date information. Retaining old employee information beyond legislative timeframes can expose oneself to litigation risks.
- Using Email for Everything
In this day and age email is the go-to tool for communicating. However, the speedy nature of email can make for fraught situations when striving to maintain employee’s privacy. When using email, be sure to consider sensitive information that may inadvertently be included from previous conversations on a chain, avoid copying or replying to extra parties and hold performance feedback sessions in person.
- Posting a Contact List
A common mistake for any environment home to hourly worker is to print and post an employee contact list for ease in cross-employee communications or trading shifts. However unlikely, posting a contact list of private information can contribute to scenarios of identity theft or worse, a stalker.
- Unsecured Files
Keeping good records is a must for any type of business. In fact, all U.S. businesses must retain payroll tax records for four years and maintain records of events like workplace injuries for ten. For those in the manufacturing sector that still deal in pen and paper, this means a mountainous archive of files that may not be properly secured.
- Lacking Data Protection Enforcement
No matter what steps your plant takes to ensure data protection, your policy must be enforceable. Depending on the type of employee information you have and in what form, your business must create a soundproof process that includes education, training and accountability to avoid breaching employee privacy rules.
In manufacturing, it is important to treat your employees’ right to privacy with care. Moving to a digital solutions, and removing the pen and paper file portion of your operations’ procedures is one surefire way to prevent accidental breaches and enforce compliance.
Derek Jones is the VP of Business Development at Deputy in the Americas.