Is your employer entitled to your personal information?

In today's digital age, personal information has become an incredibly valuable commodity. From social security numbers to email addresses and medical histories, our personal information can reveal a great deal about us and is often targeted by cybercriminals. While many of us take steps to protect our personal information online, it's also important to consider the privacy of our personal information in the workplace. Employers may collect various types of personal information from their employees, including sensitive data such as criminal background checks and medical histories. This raises important questions about what information employers are entitled to and what information employees have a right to keep private.

Is your employer entitled to your personal information?

In this article, we'll explore the topic of personal information in the workplace and discuss the types of information that employers are legally allowed to collect, what they are not entitled to, and how employees can protect their privacy.

What personal information are employers entitled to?

Employers are entitled to collect certain personal information from their employees in order to manage their workforce and comply with legal requirements. Some of the personal information that employers are entitled to collect includes:

  • Contact information: Employers typically ask for employees' name, address, phone number, and email address so that they can communicate with them.
  • Social Security number: Employers are required to obtain their employees' Social Security numbers for tax and payroll purposes.
  • Employment eligibility: Employers must verify that their employees are legally allowed to work in the United States. This means that employees must provide documentation such as a passport or driver's license, as well as a Social Security card.
  • Tax withholding information: Employers need to know how much income tax to withhold from their employees' paychecks, so employees are typically required to complete a W-4 form.
  • Emergency contact information: Employers may ask for emergency contact information in case of an emergency or if the employee becomes ill or injured at work.
  • Educational and employment history: Employers may ask for information about an employee's education and previous employment to assess their qualifications for the job.
  • Benefits information: Employers may collect personal information in order to provide benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off.

It's important to note that employers have a responsibility to protect employees' personal information and use it only for legitimate business purposes.

What personal information are employers not entitled to?

When it comes to personal information, there are some types that employers are not entitled to collect from their employees. While they may have access to certain information for legitimate business purposes, there are limits to what they can ask for. Here are a few examples of the types of personal information that employers are not entitled to collect:

  • Genetic information: Employers are prohibited from collecting genetic information from their employees by the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). This includes information about an employee's family medical history and genetic testing results.
  • Medical information: Employers are generally not entitled to employees' medical information. They may request medical information for compliance with health and safety regulations or to provide reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, they are not entitled to information about an employee's mental health or substance abuse history.
  • Personal relationships: Employers are not entitled to personal information about an employee's relationships, such as their marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
  • Political affiliation: Employers are not entitled to information about an employee's political beliefs or affiliations.
  • Social media passwords: Employers are not entitled to require employees to provide their social media passwords, and it is illegal in some states to do so.

Employers should understand their limitations when it comes to collecting personal information from their employees. They should only collect information that is necessary for legitimate business purposes, and should respect their employees' privacy rights.

Protecting your personal information in the workplace

Employees have the right to expect that their personal information will be protected in the workplace. To achieve this, employees can take some necessary steps to ensure the safety of their personal information while on the job.

Reviewing the company's privacy policy is essential. Companies should have a privacy policy that outlines how they collect, use, and protect personal information. By reading and understanding the policy, employees can learn what information their employer is entitled to and how it will be used.

Employees should be cautious when sharing personal information, even if it seems harmless. Employees should avoid discussing their personal lives with coworkers or sharing personal information on social media accounts that are associated with their work.

Using strong passwords is important. Employees should use strong, unique passwords for their work accounts and change them regularly. Avoiding the same password for multiple accounts can make it easier for hackers to access personal information. Additionally, employees should avoid leaving personal information out in the open where others can see it. Personal documents such as tax forms or medical records should be kept in a secure location, such as a locked filing cabinet.

It's also important for employees to know their rights when it comes to their personal information. They have certain rights, including the right to access their own records and the right to request that their personal information be corrected if it is inaccurate. Background check websites are an increasingly popular tool for employers to gather information about potential employees, so you should definitely get more information on them. However, it's important for job applicants to understand that they have the right to protect their personal information during this process. 

While employers are entitled to some personal information, such as employment history and criminal records, they are not entitled to other personal information such as medical records, credit reports, or social media activity. Applicants should also be aware of the limitations of background check websites and the potential for errors or inaccuracies in the information they provide. By understanding their rights and taking steps to protect their personal information, job applicants can help ensure that their privacy is respected throughout the hiring process.

By following these steps, employees can help protect their personal information while on the job. Employers also have a responsibility to ensure that they are doing their part to protect their employees' personal information. It's important for companies to have clear policies and procedures in place to protect employee privacy and to ensure that employees are aware of these policies.


In conclusion, employees have a reasonable expectation that their personal information will be protected in the workplace. While employers may be entitled to certain personal information, employees should be aware of their rights and take steps to protect their personal information from unauthorized access. By following some basic guidelines, such as reviewing company privacy policies, using strong passwords, and reporting suspected breaches of personal information, employees can help ensure that their privacy is respected while on the job. It's important for employers to do their part as well, by implementing clear policies and procedures for protecting employee privacy and ensuring that employees are aware of these policies. Ultimately, both employees and employers play an important role in safeguarding personal information in the workplace, and by working together, they can create a culture of privacy and security that benefits everyone involved.