Workplace legalities: listening to private conversations.

Background info: I work as a home-based call-centre operator for a national company. The ‘call centre’ stuff is as per what you would find in a normal office-based call centre, but instead of sitting in an office surrounded by hordes of other schleppers like myself, I am ensconced in the comfort of my own home and space.

Like a normal c/centre, we work with an auto-dialler and our calls are monitored and recorded remotely for q & t purposes etc. We also have a chat function so that we can keep in touch with others on the same campaign, and so that our supervisors can give us feedback and heads-up stuff during the day.

Logged-off today, but still able to access the chat column, I noted that one of our supervisors was having a giggle about a conversation one of the workers was having with her kids in between calls. IOW, he was (unbeknownst to her) eavesdropping on a private family exchange, then later shared with her how funny and amusing it was.

:eek: :confused: :confused:

WTF?? I was aghast, and about to ring the office and complain extremely bitterly about the ethics and/or legality of listening in on private conversations (not work related), but thought I’d better run this here first for some second opinions.

So, I’m presuming that the worker in question was on paid-time and waiting for a phone-call to come to her (sometimes there is quite a lapse between calls). She MAY have been in wrap time in which case those seconds/minutes are unpaid time anyway. In the meantime we can talk to our kids, sing lullabies to the dog, rail at the unfairness of life the universe and everything, or whatever else takes our fancy. We are not working at that time, although we are prepared for work, so to speak.

Does a company representative have the legal and/or ethical right to listen to employee conversations that are not related to the work situation? Would you be squicked out by this? What’s your humble opinions?

All you’ll do by complaining is make this person feel awkward about their position. If he is sharing it with the lady then he just heard it. If it’s his job to monitor communications then it’s his job to do so. If you are in a home office you should have your own line out anyway and not be using the company line to talk to your kids, if you are, then expect to be monitored.

I think you’d be making a mountain out of a molehill and just make things awkward for people at work. If you were in an office and they were talking to their kids across the cubicle, you’d hear it then too. Maybe this guy is nosy, and maybe it’s unappreciated, but if you are working in a home office you should be able to keep your lines of communication hermetically sealed, and as such out of the prying ears of nosy supervisors. In my opinion, keeping that communication private, is your responsibility, not the responsibility of a supervisor doing their job.

IMHO if she’s on the clock she shouldn’t have her family in there with her at all.

I recently contacted a company and was speaking with a representative when I heard a baby crying in the background. I said “Was that a baby?” and she apologized and said she was working from home. I didn’t complain because I didn’t want to get her in trouble, but it would seem to me that if you’re going to work from home you should have a designated area away from you family for just such a reason.

Heh, that’s actually a luxury. She might be making the same wage that a baby-sitter would require. That might be why she’s working from home. It’s not your problem, and it sucks for her, but that’s the reality of it.

Luxury or not, sucks for her or not… I’m sure it’s against the rules. I know it’s expensive to have a babysitter, but I’m pretty sure it’s against the rules of where she works. The reality is that she’s being paid to do a job to a certain standard and I’m pretty sure having her crying baby around during calls wouldn’t meet that standard. Still, this is enough of a hijack, right?

I don’t understand how your supervisor was able to hear your co-worker’s non-work-related conversation.

Yes–I understand monitoring when you’re talking on the phone, but what you’re saying in your home? How does that get transmitted?

Because hearing the distant cry of an infant…?

What, made your ears bleed, blew your head up?

Why should it be against the rules, I should think it would be the reason this person is working from home?

O no, the poor oppressed parents. Let me get this straight… you think the reason someone would be working from home is so they can be paid to take care of their child? Not the savings in gasoline or the time saved commuting? Do you really need someone to explain to you why this distraction should be against the rules? Really?

Also, why did you add the word distant? Do you think that helps your argument?

Her child was crying while she was trying to assist me. You know, when she was supposed to be doing her job.

Have you ever worked a phone job? I did when I was an undergrad. You are damn neared tied to your phone taking call after call. You’re helping customers, not caring for an infant. If it’s a job that can be so easily ignored why not have everyone bring their kids into offices and keep them in their cubicles?

I have worked at home on an Ask-A-Nurse line and doing claim research and managed care consulting for an insurance company. Anyone working from home had to attend training on how to use the home equipment. In my training class I was there with other nurses, a couple of pharmacists, and many customer service reps who were all going to work from home. It was stressed to everyone that if they had anyone (kids or adults) who needed to be cared for that they needed to be sure someone else was there to do that as interruptions for these things (absent an emergency) were not tolerated. I would imagine most “work at home” jobs that are phone based operate much the same way. Why should an employer pay for someone to take care of their kid while they’re supposed to be working?

And no, Snarkykins, my head didn’t explode nor did my ears bleed. Maybe you can return with more pertinent questions regarding this situation or are we just going continue to hijack the thread with your whine about parents rights today?

Back to the OP - I think that if you’re told up front that your worktime calls may be monitored, you can assume they are always being monitored. It was impolite to eavesdrop on a private converation, but there is no more expectation of privacy than there would be if you were sitting in a cubicle talking to your family member from your desk phone. If you don’t want your personal calls listened to, either don’t make them during work hours, or make them from a cell phone.


But she mentioned them being able to hear you “sing lullabies to your dog” who presumably is not on the other end of the phone, but in the room?? How are they hearing non-phone conversations?

If they’re using an autodialer, presumably the agent at home is wearing a headset and is always connected to the dialer in the office. They’ll get some notice that they’re about to put on with a caller, but in between calls, if they keep the headset on & unmuted, anything they say will still go out over the headset->autodialer connection and be audible to a monitoring supervisor.

If she was using a cellphone, and using a personal cellphone while in the office is not prohibited, it’s an invasion of privacy. If she was using a company line, it’s not. Your employer can legally (though perhaps not ethically) read your e-mail, videotape your or listen in on your phone conversations without telling you about it.

Yeah, I think if Kambuckta is not willing to come back and explain how this is happening (and I truly don’t get it), my participation here is done.

If your a monitoring supervisor, it’s not up to you to guess when the employee is going to have a conversation with someone in their home and not be listening. It’s up to the employee to not talk about anything private while the monitoring supervisor can be listening.

See my post above. Operator is at home, wearing a headset. This headset is always live, and always connected to the autodialer in the office. So anything you say, whether you’re in a call with a customer or not, is going out on a live line to the office, where it can be monitored, just as if you were in a call with a customer.



You find it dubious that her head didn’t explode and her ears didn’t bleed?

Oh, if that’s the case, then the operator has to watch what they say when they’re connected. The supervisor shouldn’t be a dick and be laughing about it with other co-workers, but everyone should know that what is broadcast on company equipment on company time is not private.