Can your workplace legally install hidden cameras? Orange county workplace lawyers and employment lawyers find this is a question that has been popping up more and more, especially as the use of technology in the office becomes increasingly sophisticated.
Employee Video Monitoring in California
Employee video monitoring is the use of a camera to monitor an individual’s activities in the workplace. It may be used for security purposes or as part of data protection policies, with employers using it as both prevention and detection techniques.
Video surveillance has been lauded for its ability to reduce theft, vandalism, violence, and absenteeism in industries such as retailing, transportation, and tourism. It’s common for employers to install video cameras on the premises of their establishments.
When Video Monitoring is Allowed and When it Isn’t
There are only three times an employer can use video monitoring legally in California.
- When it’s disclosed to the employee in writing
- When the employee has provided written consent understanding their employment is conditioned upon the video monitoring
- By court order for locations not otherwise allowed by law
The law states that employers are permitted to place cameras in areas where employees have “no reasonable expectation of privacy.” Applicable places include all common areas, walkways, hallways, meeting rooms, conference rooms, and central gathering areas. Even though an employer may have gathered consent to the video recording, it’s helpful and courteous to put up signs in these locations as a visual reminder.
As employer lawyers, we at Neal-Lopez Law Group know that employers are not allowed to place video cameras in any place where an employee has a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” such as bathrooms, changing areas, or locker rooms. Break rooms and kitchen areas may also be gray areas based on some circumstances.
The only time an employer might be able to video monitor in those places is with an approved court order.
Erroneous Excuses Given to Get Access to Other Areas of Your Life
Employment contracts might contain vague and wide-sweeping language where the employer might be claiming they can monitor all your activities, on or off-line, during business hours and without. The most significant reason is to “abide by the ethics policy” they may have in place. While the intention is good, employers are not allowed to video record you in other specific circumstances.
When you access your personal social media accounts, including attempting to see your username and password
Covertly through the camera pieces activated on a laptop, company cell phone, or employer-owned device while the device is in your home, without your express written permission
Employers can monitor their laptops and cell phones through other methods, but they cannot remotely turn on the cameras without your express knowledge or permission.
What To Do if You Find a Hidden Camera at Work
Finding a hidden camera can be unnerving. It’s important to remember that it might have a legitimate purpose. If you find a hidden camera at work, do the following.
- Don’t touch it
- Note the location of the camera
Suppose the camera was found in a common area, walkway, entry or exit point, break room, or kitchen area. If so, then check your employment contract to see if you signed anything giving your permissions to be video recorded while on the job. If you did grant your permissions, then this is OK.
Suppose the camera was found in a forbidden area or you did not provide your consent, then report the camera to the authorities. The company could be in violation of privacy rights for workplace monitoring if they have not obtained permission from their workers or placed cameras where it is allowed by law. It could have also been illegally and nefariously placed there by someone else.
Contact Trusted Los Angeles Workplace Lawyers
We at Neal-Lopez Law Group have been faithfully serving the Los Angeles and Orange County communities for years. Although we help with many corporate and business legal needs, we focus most of our efforts on labor and employment disputes as workplace lawyers. If you believe that your workplace monitors employees with cameras without consent or notification to such surveillance, please get in touch with a workplace attorney in Los Angeles or workplace attorneys in Orange County. We look forward to serving you.