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Employee GPS Tracking Laws: Everything You Need to Know

We'll consider the legal issues surrounding employee GPS tracking.
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Are you considering GPS tracking your staff? Before diving into this technology, it's crucial to understand the laws that regulate the use of employee data for business operations. 

This is especially true when it comes to GPS tracking data.

In this article, we'll consider the legal issues surrounding employee GPS tracking. From understanding the GPS tracking laws to answering common questions about GPS tracking, we'll cover everything you need to know to make informed decisions about employee monitoring.

 So, let's get started!

Can You Track an Employee's Location? A Quick Answer.

Many business owners and decision-makers that want to use GPS trackers to improve their workflow wonder -  is tracking employees by GPS legal? 

To make it really concise, the quick answer would be yes - as long as you’re compliant with relevant laws and follow best practices.

 

You can track your employee’s location via GPS in most states during regular work hours and on company-owned vehicles. 

However, location tracking outside of working hours is limited, and so is tracking vehicles personally owned by the employees. 

There are a few more important things employers should know, and we will address them one by one. 

How Can I Track My Employees' Location?

Depending on your business needs, you can use technology to track your employees' locations in several ways: 

  • Mobile GPS tracking software.  Your employees can use GPS tracker apps installed on their mobile devices to track location, time, activity, and other data.
  •  GPS tracking devices. Your employees can carry small portable GPS devices for location tracking. Some of these devices also provide features like geofencing or real-time tracking.
  • Fleet management systems. You can use GPS technology to track the vehicle's movements and, consequently, the location of traveling employees. 

However, since GPS-enabled smartphones are so widely used nowadays, employee GPS tracking software is often the most obvious choice for employers.

With GPS tracking apps, you need no additional hardware, while they provide you with other strong features to manage your workforce more efficiently.

Now that we’ve covered some basic grounds, we can dive deeper into employee GPS tracking laws and learn about the best use cases.

General Principles Regarding Employee GPS Tracking

There isn’t a specific law regarding using GPS tracking devices by employers to track their employee’s location in U.S. Federal Law. 

However, some state laws have tried to regulate the field and prevent location tracking misuse. 

To sum them up briefly, some general principles regarding employee GPS tracking you should always consider are

  • You can use GPS tracking in company-owned vehicles or devices, but you should inform your employees about it. If you want to use a GPS tracker in vehicles or devices, you must inform the owner and get their consent. Use GPS tracking for legitimate business purposes only, such as improving your employees’ safety, better business efficiency, or compliance.
  • Respect employees’ privacy and do not track your employees outside work hours.
  • Create the GPS monitoring policy following the relevant regulations.
  •  Inform employees about company policies and the tracking system you will be using.
  • Ensure you have employees’ written consent before tracking them.
  • Stay up to date with the relevant regulations to ensure compliance.

We will discuss these principles in more detail below as we guide you through state laws and some common use cases. 

Get to Know the GPS Tracking Laws by State

We’ve already mentioned that some states have tried to regulate the field of GPS tracking. However, only a few legal restrictions exist on employers who want to track their employees’ whereabouts

In most states, these limitations are related to the ownership of a vehicle/device and the time when the GPS tracking occurs - during work hours or outside of it. 

Below, you can check what employers are legally permitted to monitor in some states.

California 

This state has some of the strictest privacy regulations regarding tracking employees via GPS. According to the state's Penal Code Section 637.7, it is illegal to monitor the movements of any person without their consent. This regulation applies regardless of who owns the vehicle - employee or employer. 

Therefore, notifying employees of GPS tracking and obtaining their consent is the safest way to go if your business operates in California, even in the case of company-owned vehicles.

New York 

In the state of New York, employers are allowed to use GPS to track company-owned vehicle locations. But, if the employee owns the vehicle, employers must get their consent before tracking it.

Besides, monitoring employees’ location is limited to business hours only, as ruled in the Cunningham v. New York Department of Labor case.

Texas 

Employers can legally track company-owned vehicles during work hours in this state, as found in the case of Tubbs v. Wynne.

On the other hand,  it is illegal to install a GPS device on a motor vehicle owned or leased by another person without their effective consent. However, this does not apply to law enforcement agencies obtaining warrants. 

Florida

In Florida, employers are allowed to use a GPS tracking device for legitimate business reasons only and if they own the vehicle. However, as in the states listed above, before installing GPS into personally owned vehicles, they must get the employee’s consent.

Illinois

According to Illinois law, tracking individuals is prohibited in most circumstances, but there is a business-use exception to it. Companies can use tracking devices in their fleet vehicles, but to stay compliant, they must be the registered owner of the used GPS devices. In addition, employers must inform all employees of the GPS tracker and what it’s tracking. 

Connecticut 

Employers in Connecticut are required by the Electronic Monitoring Act to notify their employees in writing of any electronic monitoring conducted in the workplace. There is also Connecticut’s common law right to privacy that needs to be taken into consideration when it comes to employee GPS tracking. 

In short, employers in Connecticut who are to monitor the whereabouts of their employees while driving company-owned vehicles or using company-owned cell phones should provide clear written notice to their employees. In it, you should inform your employees that each company vehicle or cell phone is equipped with a GPS device that may be used to monitor or gather information about their activities (such as their location, movements, and, if driving a vehicle, its route and speed, or whatever data the device may be collecting).

To sum up, the laws around tracking vehicles are mostly consistent across the US. Although there are no specific federal GPS tracking laws, GPS regulations differ among some states. The general rule is that an employer can install a GPS device if it's a company-owned vehicle. But, if it’s an employee-owned vehicle, employers need to get consent from their employees.

GPS Tracking By Use Cases

After we’ve presented employee GPS tracking laws by state, let’s summarize the most common use cases.

Tracking Personal vs. Company-Owned Vehicles/Devices

The legality of GPS tracking technology depends on the ownership of the vehicle.

If the vehicle is owned by a company, the employer can usually monitor all activities by issuing company-owned devices. This is the safest way to use location tracking.

In some states, employers are legally allowed to track the location of any company-owned vehicle, but tracking people without their consent is generally not allowed.

It is illegal in some states, including Texas and California, to track vehicles without the owner's consent. Even outside these states, you should get consent when using any GPS tracker for monitoring employees’ vehicles. Without consent, tracking may be considered an invasion of privacy, and you may break broader privacy laws.

Employee GPS Tracking During Off-Hours

GPS tracking should only be used for employee-owned vehicles during work hours. Tracking employees outside these hours may violate their privacy rights and expose your business to legal risks. 

Therefore, you must address privacy issues and inform employees about when and why GPS tracking will be used. Also, include this information in your employee GPS tracking policy. 

This way, you can respect the terms that you and your employees have agreed upon, stay compliant with relevant regulations, and avoid any legal problems.

What About the GPS Tracking Apps?

As an employer, you are within your right to ask your workers to download a tracking app. 

However, you must be cautious about collecting GPS data outside working hours. 

To stay compliant, ensure you follow the general principles we’ve mentioned above.

Furthermore, when choosing a GPS tracking app, remember that some of them can track an employee’s location outside of their work hours and can be potentially harmful to your business.

Tracking Your Employees' Location: Useful Resources 

GPS tracking can benefit employers and employees in different ways. Businesses can use GPS tracking to ensure their employees are working well, delivering on time, and using vehicles properly.

In addition, GPS tracking apps can help businesses ensure compliance and help them transform manual processes, such as timekeeping or payroll, into an efficient workflow.

On the other hand, employees can also benefit from GPS by getting help in emergencies, making reporting easier, and showing that they are reliable.

However, if you decide to go with employee GPS tracking, there are some best practices you should implement to make the most of it. such as addressing employees’ privacy concerns and being transparent about the process.  

It is highly recommended to have a written policy in place too. We’ve prepared an article that will help you navigate the entire process of creating an employee GPS tracking policy and educating your team about it.

Don’t forget to remind your employees how the collection of business data works. It can help the company and its workforce to ensure a safe and transparent business environment. 

Choose a Reliable GPS Tracker App

After we’ve covered employee GPS tracking laws, it’s time to see how you can track your employee’s location accurately and reap all the benefits for your business while staying under the employee location tracking laws.

You can achieve this easily by choosing reliable GPS software, such as Timeero.

 

Timeero provides accurate GPS tracking and ensures compliance, allowing you to track employee locations only while they’re on the clock. 

One important thing to note: Timeero does not capture and save any locations after the employee clocks out, protecting you from privacy concerns and future legal issues.

Timeero mobile app clock in
Timeero mobile app: Clock in

With Timeero, you can:

  • Track distance, speed, and the precise time for each location in real-time and retrospectively
  • Easily access critical information about your mobile employees’ whereabouts
  • Restrict clock in and out using geofencing
  • Streamline timekeeping and payroll
  • Stay compliant with labor laws
  • Improve the safety of your employees on the field
  • Reimburse your teams fairly and accurately for the miles driven 
  • Generate reports in no time and easily export them to accounting software

Timeero GPS tracking app allows you to see where your employees are and what tasks they are working on. This means you can check your employees’ movements at any time during their shift and even replay the routes they are taking if needed.

Timeero time and mileage
Timeero: Track distance, speed, and the precise time for each location in real-time and retrospectively

Moreover, you can get the information you need to respond to any employee or customer request and get real-time notifications when your team members enter or leave a geofenced area.

Timeero: Setting up a geofence
Timeero: Setting up a geofence

You can achieve all this and more while staying compliant with employee GPS tracking laws.

Get started with Timeero and ensure efficient and accurate GPS tracking.

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