GPS Devices Catch Workers Goofing Off
State and municipal governments, as well as private employers, are finding ways to use global positioning devices to their advantage, relying on them to help save money — and to catch employees goofing off or doing other work on the job.
For instance, The Associated Press reports, Islip, N.Y., saved nearly 14,000 gallons of gas in a three-month period compared to the previous year after GPS devices were installed on its vehicles. (And when you consider the price of gas, that's a lot of tax money being saved.) Islip Supervisor Phil Nolan says gas consumption is down because town employees, who know they are being tracked, are using the vehicles less often for personal business.
GPS units also have cost some workers their jobs. In Fort Wayne, an administrator in the county health department bought three GPS devices out of her own pocket and moved them around between 12 department vehicles. Six employees were fired when they were caught going to stores, gyms, restaurants, churches and their homes. The administrator was later reimbursed for her purchases.
Needless to say, some employees and their unions don't like this use of GPS and complain that Big Brother is spying on them. That's made the use of GPS a bargaining point in contract negotiations. The Teamsters' tentative contract with United Parcel Service, for instance, says that a new employee cannot be fired for a first offense detected by GPS unless there is proof of intent to defraud.
But the devices also are being used in less controversial ways. In my old town of Boston, GPS units are installed on school buses, allowing the district to tell worried parents how far away a late bus is.
5:36 PM ET | 11-16-2007 | permalink