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Must we tell staff & visitors they’re being watched?

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Q. We recently installed cameras in our plant’s production areas. The cameras aren’t hidden, and it is common knowledge they were installed. Do I need to post something notifying employees and visitors that the area is under video surveillance? Should I have employees sign something? — Brad, Idaho

A. Video monitoring of a workplace is generally not prohibited by any federal law. It is wise to use video-only monitoring. If the cameras can make audio recordings, the federal Wiretap Act and the Stored Communications Act come into play.  

Still, “video-only” surveillance can still expose you to invasion-of-privacy claims. That’s especially true if you install a surveillance camera where employees could ­reasonably expect privacy (restrooms, locker rooms, etc.). It sounds like your cameras are installed in public areas where there is no reasonable expectation of employee privacy.

It’s also smart to set a policy restricting access to the recordings and to strictly forbid the use of personal video or Web cameras in the workplace (even by man­agers) without authorization from HR. You should have employees sign an acknowledgment regarding the video monitoring.

Finally, check on your state law. Idaho, for example, prohibits secretly recording people without their knowledge in areas where they can reasonably expect privacy.  Also, realize that if your employees are unionized, a decision to install video cameras is a mandatory subject of collective bargaining.

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