Heed the legal limits of video monitoring in the workplace

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Firing,HR Management,Human Resources

Monitoring employees with video cameras probably doesn't violate employee privacy rights, but employers should make sure they don't step over the line of reasonable privacy concerns, such as monitoring dressing rooms and bathrooms.

Also, the most legally safe route is to use soundless video recording. That will keep you clear from any violations of the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Plus, some states make it illegal to record a conversation without consent of both parties.

Recent case: When vandalism hit the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the newspaper suspected longtime janitor Joan Oates, since she had unfettered access.

The Press installed surveillance cameras, which irritated Oates. She was caught on camera making a gesture with her middle finger toward the device, and then covering the camera with a Styrofoam cup. Oates, who also suffered a disability, was fired soon after and she sued for disability discrimination and privacy violations.

The newspaper's employee handbook says, "The Company maintains electronic video surveillance of company property ... and employees should have NO expectation of privacy in work or public areas." The policy was also posted throughout the building.

The court dismissed her claim. It said the video mon-itoring was legal and firing her for tampering with the camera was a valid nondiscriminatory reason. (Oates v Chattanooga Times Free Press, No 04-0743, TN Ct. App., 2006)

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