Q. We have a theft problem in our plant. Our plant manager would like to install security cameras at key locations and exits, and would like to do this without telling our employees so that we can catch the guilty party. Is there any reason why we should not proceed with installing the cameras?
A. The use of security cameras is increasingly commonplace in manufacturing facilities. Many employers find that security cameras installed at time clocks deter employees from clocking out for their co-workers. Installing security cameras is not illegal, nor is there any recognized right of privacy in a private workplace.
If your plant is unionized, however, the National Labor Relations Board has held that the use of security cameras is a “mandatory” subject of bargaining. That means that you cannot install security cameras without first bargaining with the union.
Bargaining with a union does not require that it agree—rather, you must bargain and either reach agreement or impasse. At impasse, you can implement surveillance, subject to other restrictions that may exist in the collective bargaining agreement.
Of course, bargaining will result in the union knowing about your intent to use security cameras. That will alert those who are the object of your surveillance and may be enough to discourage theft.