California is known for being at the forefront when it comes to technological advancement, innovation, and progressive policies. California GPS Tracking Law is one popular policy that has garnered attention for the best part of this decade. This law sets strict guidelines on how to use GPS-tracking apps and devices in different contexts.
In California, the right to privacy is a direct constitutional right, so the California GPS tracking law was introduced to govern the use of GPS-tracking devices in both personal and commercial contexts. The aim is to protect employee privacy rights while allowing for legitimate uses of GPS tracking.
In this article, we'll delve into the key provisions of California GPS Tracking Law and what it means for individuals, businesses, and law enforcement agencies operating in the state.
The newly passed law AB-984 came into effect on January 1, 2023. And it builds on other privacy laws in California, including the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), also called AB375, which came into effect on January 1, 2020, and the California Penal Code Sec.637.7 discussed in the previous section.
The Penal Code Sec 637.7 prohibits the use of electronic tracking devices to track the movement or location of an individual, except when the owner of the vehicle has consented to the use of the device. AB-984 law, on the other hand, puts significant restrictions on how business owners can use a tracking device to monitor employees, but it doesn’t wholly prohibit its use.
Specifically, this law provides that:
“An employer, or a person acting on behalf of the employer, shall not use an alternative device to monitor employees except during work hours, and only if strictly necessary for the performance of the employee’s duties.”
For this clause, the word “monitor” includes, but is not limited to, “locating, tracking, watching, listening to, or otherwise surveilling the employee” during work hours through a digital license plate, as long as it’s “strictly necessary for the performance of the employee’s duties.”
That said, an employer who chooses to install a tracking device is required to notify employees before they start monitoring or tracking with the device. The notice must, at minimum, contain the following:
Now that you know that tracking employees is allowed as long as you get their consent read on to understand California’s GPS tracking rules and regulations better and how to use them to your advantage.
But remember, if you’re considering using GPS tracking for your staff, ensure you understand the laws regulating workers’ data to be on the safe side when conducting your business operations.
We have a detailed guide on employee GPS tracking laws to help you navigate the process smoothly.
In California, GPS tracking of employees is regulated by the California Constitution, the California Labor Code, and the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA).
The California Constitution Article 1 Section 1 provides that “all people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.”
The state constitutions in general, and the California Constitution specifically, are more explicit and expansive as far as the expectation of privacy rights from citizens is concerned.
This doesn’t mean that you cannot track your employees, it means that you need some familiarity with the law to get it right when using GPS to track employees.
California Penal Code section 637.7 further discusses privacy issues in detail.
The following are some of the key provisions of this law:
As indicated, violating the California GPS tracking law can lead to civil and criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment. Therefore, individuals and businesses need to be aware of the legal requirements surrounding GPS monitoring in California before using such devices.
When it comes to whether GPS tracking in California is legal or not, the law is not very clear.
For instance, California GPS tracking laws indicate that it’s a “misdemeanor” to place a tracking device inside a vehicle, but that rule doesn’t apply if you’re the owner of the car.
The California Penal Code section 637.7 makes it illegal to monitor the movement of any individual, including a company-owned vehicle, without their consent.
However, an important exception allows registered owners, lessors, or lessees of vehicles to use location tracking devices to track their own vehicles without informing the driver.
In fact, this is the strategy car dealerships use to repossess their vehicles that fail to make payments on time because they technically own the vehicle until the individual pays the vehicle off.
An employer who fails to comply shall be subject to significant fines and penalties including a civil penalty of $250 for an initial violation. An additional $1,000 per employee can also be imposed for every subsequent violation.
In addition to the civil penalties, employers can be subjected to additional fines if they are found to retaliate against an employee for disabling or removing an alternative’s tracking device monitoring capabilities, including vehicle location technology, outside of work hours. In such a case, the employee in question “shall be entitled to all available penalties, remedies, and compensation, including, but not limited to, reinstatement and reimbursement of lost wages, work benefits, or other compensation caused by the retaliation.”
Needless to say, tracking employees using GPS devices in California requires some knowledge about the topic and legal advice from a lawyer who operates within employment law. If your business has clear reasons to track employees including their vehicles, here are some best practices to follow:
Employers and business owners are required to obtain the employee’s written consent before implementing GPS tracking. This means that employers must notify employees through writing or have them sign a GPS tracking policy to allow them to monitor their location during working hours.
California has strict privacy regulations. The state’s Penal Code Section 637.7 indicates, "No person or entity in the state shall use an electronic tracking device to determine the location or movement of a person.”
The only exception is for the “registered owner, lessor, or lessee who has consented to the use of the electronic tracking device with respect to that vehicle.”
This includes their location and hours worked. Under California law, employers are also required to track the hours worked by their employees. This includes the beginning of the shirt, the start and stop of meal breaks, and the end of the shift.
If you’re unsure how to calculate overtime in California, read our detailed guide on California Overtime Law.
To stay compliant with the law, ensure you create an employee GPS tracking agreement and ask your employees to read and sign it before installing a tracking device or using the best employee GPS-tracking app to track their location or movement.
In addition to getting consent from employees before using a GPS tracker, don’t have them download a mobile app without telling them what the app does. Ensure you provide them with information on the purpose of the tracking, the type of that will be collected, how the data will be used, and any potential outcomes for not consenting to the tracking. Employees should also know who will access the data and how long it will be retained.
If you decide to track your employee’s locations, do so only for work-related activities such as monitoring employees’ safety or tracking the location of company-owned vehicles. Also, limit tracking to strictly work hours. Employers and business owners should avoid using GPS tracking to monitor employees during non-working hours or to track their personal activities.
Employers should take reasonable steps to protect the privacy of employees when using GPS location tracking. This includes limiting access to GPS data to only individuals with genuine business needs and implementing appropriate measures to protect data from unauthorized access, such as implementing secure password policies and encrypting data. All information tracked should be stored securely and access to this information should be strictly limited to authorized personnel.
Whether it’s legal to track employee GPS location or not is a question that lingers in every employer’s mind whenever you consider implementing a tracking system for your workforce.
That being said, using company property to track employees' movement and location during business hours only is completely within the confines of the law - again as long as your employees are aware of being tracked, the purpose of the tracking, and the type of data being collected.
You can use Timeero for your time, GPS, and mileage tracking needs to add an extra layer of legal protection and stay compliant with laws in your state.
Here is how:
As mentioned earlier, one of the key requirements of GPS tracking laws is seeking consent from the employees you intend to track.
Timeero allows employers to obtain consent from their staff to track their location through the smartphone app. The employee consent form can be obtained during the initial setup or onboarding process where employees are prompted to provide consent to GPS tracking when they first log in. The app will also display a message explaining what data will be collected and why GPS tracking is being used. Employees are required to read and agree to the company’s GPS tracking policy before using the app.
To see the elements that every company's GPS tracking policy should contain,
Timeero will also notify employees when GPS tracking is activated or deactivated. This provides the transparency employees need and information on what is being tracked. If an employee fails to provide consent to GPS tracking, the app will still allow them to access other features such as shift scheduling and time clock. But GPS tracking won’t be enabled for that staff.
With Timeero, viewing your location data and the time spent in a specific place is guaranteed. This provides transparency during employee monitoring and employees are aware of how their information is being used.
Timeero collects GPS location data from the employee’s device once they are clocked in. This information is stored in the cloud; employees and employers can see this data on Timeero’s app or web portal. They can also see detailed reports of the data collected, which can be used to verify that the information was collected and used appropriately.
When we talk of compliance, Timeero provides flexible and customizable options that allow employers to tailor their apps to the requirements of their state and federal laws. For instance, California GPS tracking laws require employers to obtain consent from employees before tracking their location.
Timeero app includes features to obtain consent from employees before tracking their location and movement to protect their privacy and ensure that tracking is used for authentic business purposes.
Some of these features include a consent module, notification when tracking is active, privacy controls to view and control location data, as well as data encryption and security to protect location data from unauthorized access.
Some states require employers to retain GPS data of GPS tracking activities for a certain period of time before it’s deleted.
Timeero cloud-based platform allows employers to securely record, store, and manage GPS data, including location, hours worked, and other data required by state law for as long as its needed. The data can also be deleted when required.
Anyone considering tracking employees in California should consider getting the most updated information on the legal use of GPS-tracking devices in the state.
In a nutshell, it’s generally legal to use GPS tracking devices in California, but there are restrictions on how and when they can be used.
Particularly, the law requires that anyone who wishes to use a GPS tracker must either be the owner of the vehicle being tracked or obtain consent from the owner or user. That said, it’s against the law to use GPS tracking devices to track the movement and location of employees without their consent. Failure to comply can attract hefty fines and penalties.
Ensure you understand all the legal requirements and limitations before using a GPS tracker in California.
To be on the safe side of the law and comply with GPS tracking laws, ensure you use Timeero. Try out the 14-day trial today!