Bargaining for Privacy in the Unionized Workplace

Ann C. Hodges, University of Richmond


This article considers whether collective bargaining can enhance privacy protection for employees in the United States. Employers are increasingly engaging in practices that invade employee privacy with few existing legal protections to limit their actions. While data on the extent of bargaining about privacy is limited, it appears that unions in the U.S. have primarily used the grievance and arbitration procedure to challenge invasions of privacy that lead to discipline of the employee instead of negotiating explicit contractual privacy rights. In contrast to the U.S., labor representatives in many other countries, particularly in the European Union, have greater legal rights of consultation with employers and take a more proactive approach to protection of employee privacy. While this approach offers promise for achieving greater privacy for employees and more flexibility for employers, the article concludes that it is unlikely to be widely adopted in the U.S. because of the limited power of labor unions.