With the advancing capabilities and reduced cost of surveillance equipment, cameras in the workplace are becoming increasingly common. For employers, cameras offer many benefits, such as security and to deter theft. When it comes to employees, however, the advantages may not be as clear in terms of privacy rights.
What you can and cannot do in terms of using cameras in the workplace vary from state to state. Generally speaking, laws depend upon a balance of employees’ expectation of privacy and an employer’s legitimate business purposes. Federal wiretapping laws limit the use of audio recordings, which is why most employer cameras record video only. It is difficult to justify camera use in bathrooms, changing rooms, or locker rooms. In fact, in California, placing recording devices in such locations is a crime. The same is true of using two-way mirrors in restrooms and locker rooms. It is also not permitted for an employer to record union meetings or other union activity, or any other surveillance method which is not germane to a legitimate business purpose.
It is within your due diligence to mark your cameras, or otherwise let employees know where they are located. These notifications prevent an employee from having reasonable expectations of privacy in that location, typically the main argument against video surveillance. If the employee is aware of the camera’s existence and location, then it is not reasonable for them to have expected privacy. A surveillance policy included in the handbook, including methods, scope and duration of surveillance, is essential in the protection of your Practice.
If you believe you need secret surveillance, or surveillance of which your employees would not be aware in advance, it is imperative to consult with an attorney beforehand to ensure that you are not violating any laws.