Monitoring employees with video cameras likely won't violate employees' 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. Reason: That will keep you clear from any violations of the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
As long as you can show that the employee has no reasonable expectation of privacy in a certain work area, you should be free to install video recording devices in that area.
Case in point: A receptionist in the business development office of a small Massachusetts college sometimes changed clothes in the rear of the office before and after work. She'd lock the door and no one else was in the office.
But she became incensed when she discovered that the changing area was under hidden video surveillance.
The college installed the cameras after a former employee was under investigation for theft.
She sued the employer, claiming violation of her Fourth Amendment right to privacy. Plus, she claimed the college was liable for negligent hiring and supervision of the security workers.
But the Massachusetts Supreme Court sided with the college, saying the employee had no reasonable right to privacy in that section of the office. The office was open to the public and, even when the door was locked, other employees had keys. (Nelson v. Salem State College, SJC-09519)
Final tip: Note that some states set their own restrictions on video monitoring at work, including California, Connecticut, Delaware and Michigan.
Among the restrictions set by states are those that:
- Prohibit video monitoring in changing areas
- Require employer notice of monitoring practices
- Make it illegal to record a conversation without consent of both parties.
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