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Are Hidden Cameras at Work Legal?

Cameras and similar types of surveillance at work are generally legal if they are for a legitimate business purpose. However, state law may limit where cameras can be placed, as well as require employers to notify employees of where and when they may be recorded. Employees should be able to find company policies regarding employee surveillance in the employee handbook.

Legitimate Reasons for Workplace Video Surveillance

State laws generally govern privacy rights regarding cameras at work. Under most state laws, an employer needs to have a legitimate business reason for conducting camera surveillance in the workplace. Legitimate reasons include preventing theft and providing security, which is why countless grocery stores, retail establishments, banks, and business places use cameras in common areas accessible to the public. However, in a regular office setting, it's wise for companies to notify employees of the existence of cameras and why the company is using them.

Recordings that capture audio further complicate employee monitoring because of the existence of state and federal wiretapping laws. Wiretapping laws may apply regardless of how legitimate the reasons behind the video surveillance might be. As a result, if video cameras at work also capture sound, employers may run the risk of breaking applicable eavesdropping or wiretapping laws.

Location of Cameras at Work

As noted above, regardless of the state, private companies generally have a right to video monitor the common areas of the workplace if done for a legitimate reason, such as building security. It's a typical business practice to record common areas of a workplace, such as retail sales floors, grocery store aisles and exits, bank counters, and the like. Placing cameras in these common areas, where employees have little to no expectation of privacy, has typically been protected by law.

However, employee privacy rights are not completely surrendered when workers are on the job. Some states prohibit an employer from surveilling employees in areas where employees would expect at least some measure of privacy. Some examples of workplace areas that may receive privacy protections in some states include restrooms, changing rooms, and break areas. States vary widely as to which specific areas of a workplace may be video recorded for legitimate purposes, and it's best to consult with a local employment or privacy attorney or your state's labor agency to find out more.

Notice Requirements & Hidden Cameras

Putting up video surveillance without notice to employees or using hidden cameras at work may also violate employee privacy rights. For example, under Connecticut law, employers are required to notify employees about video surveillance, while courts have established similar protections in some other states. As a result, employers are generally well-advised (if not required) to provide notice to their employees of the existence of cameras in the workplace. It should also be noted that courts in various states have protected employers' use of hidden cameras in the workplace in certain circumstances.

Employees who are recorded in inappropriate locations or without their knowledge may have grounds for a lawsuit for invasion of privacy or related claim.

Learn More About Hidden Cameras at Work and Workplace Privacy from a Lawyer

If an employer improperly uses cameras in the workplace, affected employees may have legal claims against their employer. If you feel you have been negatively affected by camera surveillance where you work, you should contact a local employment attorney.

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