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Can Employers Use Video Cameras to Monitor Workers?

Can Employers Use Video Cameras to Monitor Workers?

Many employers use video cameras to prevent internal theft, security purposes, and to have a record of any employee accident or injury. Most video surveillance in the workplace is permissible when the employers notify workers about the surveillance.

However, there are some instances where it is not allowed. Employers may be limited in the use of surveillance to monitor union activity. Other state laws limit how and where employees may be monitored. Additionally, federal wiretap law makes it illegal to record certain oral communications, which is why surveillance cameras usually lack audio.

This article provides a general overview of when and how employers may use video cameras to monitor workers. See Are Hidden Cameras at Work Legal? and the Workplace Privacy subsection of our Small Business Law Center for additional information.

Lawful Use of Video Surveillance

When employers use video cameras to monitor employees, they must have a legitimate business reason. State privacy laws may determine the extent to which video monitoring is considered legitimate and therefore lawful (check with your state labor agency for more details). Most of these laws limiting video camera use in the workplace pertain to restrooms, break rooms, and other areas for which there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

It is quite common for retail stores, banks, restaurants, and other employers that interact with the public to use video surveillance in locations where security or theft prevention is important. Most employees working behind the counter at a jewelry store have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

Even if employees who work in cubicles probably think they have some privacy, many companies and businesses of all types monitor employee interactions. Business insurance providers may even offer lower premiums if the insured company has video surveillance of their business.

Regardless of the reason for use, employers must let workers know that cameras are being used in the workplace. See Privacy at Work: What are Your Rights? to learn more.

Surveillance of Union Activity

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRB) prohibits employers' use of video cameras to monitor employees' union activities, including union meetings and conversations involving union matters. Employers must bargain with union employees before using video surveillance. Additionally, employers may not use video surveillance in a way that is meant to intimidate current or prospective union members.

Questions About Video Surveillance at Work? Talk to a Local Attorney

Employers use video cameras to monitor employees for a whole host of reasons but must do so lawfully. If you have questions about the laws in your state, it's a good idea for you to get in touch with a skilled employment lawyer in your area.

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Contact a qualified employment attorney to make sure your privacy rights are protected.

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