If an employer suspects harassment in the work environment, they can install a camera. That is also possible if they fear that the staff members do not complete the requirements of their role in the company.
There is always the possibility of things going missing within a company. Installing a surveillance camera can protect those items and potentially sensitive information about the business.
Installing a video surveillance kit can prevent shoplifting or unauthorized trespassing of a third party.
In robbery cases, with the help of a hidden camera, police can identify a burglar. Employers can also secure their personnel from abusive customers or other employees.
If an employer's decision does not meet the above conditions, it may be considered illegal. Some additional events can make such a decision illegal.
1. Surveillance Camera Location
There are locations in a workplace where employees' privacy is expected, such as:
Lounges or break rooms
In such rooms, hidden video surveillance, especially without consent, is highly forbidden.
The states of Alabama, Utah, and Minnesota do not allow video surveillance in private spaces.
The states of Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Michigan, Tennessee, and Utah only allow surveillance in private rooms if all personnel consent to the installation.
A small note: One cannot always expect privacy in lounges and break rooms. That depends on the enterprise's regulations.
2. Not Informing the Employees
As said above, not all states require an employer to inform their staff about implementing hidden cameras:
Regardless, if employees feel that their privacy is violated, they can proceed with a lawsuit. The case can severely damage the company's reputation if they present reasonable evidence.
Thus, offering the personnel a consent paper or written notice is reasonable.
Note that a consent paper means an employee agrees to know about implemented hidden cameras. At the same time, the receipt of notice means that the employee solely acknowledges the existence of cameras but does not necessarily agree with the policy.
3. To Create a Hostile Environment
It is considered illegal for an employer to use surveillance cameras to harass or blackmail staff members.
An employee-friendly work environment is reasonable for the personnel, and every employer should secure it.
4. Audio Recordings
Recording audio is typically considered illegal, especially for private calls or conversations.
In 39 states, it is legal if one of the parties in the conversation agrees to the audiovisual recording:
In the other 11 states, all parties need to consent:
The state of California strictly prohibits audio recording during confidential calls.
Yet, audio recordings can be considered a privacy violation since they can also serve as harassment.
National Labour Relations Act
The National Labour Relations Act (NLRA) is a law that protects the freedom of all workers in private-sector industries or companies.
According to the rulings, an employer is prohibited from recording any meetings or conversations of the union in any state. The same applies to recordings of marching and protest organizing.
Additionally, any potential footage cannot be used as harassment or threat.
Electronic Communications Privacy Act
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) is a federal law that protects all kinds of communications between US citizens.
On the hidden cameras' and audio recordings' note, the ECPA restricts employers from listening to and recording personal calls or other electronic communications in any state.
The information above refers to general cases. Yet, there are some exceptions.
1. Recording Data
In general terms, it is prohibited to record personal data.
Nevertheless, in cases such as hospitals, it is inevitable for a video surveillance system to record private information (i.e., medical data, social security numbers, etc.). In similar circumstances, a corporation has to take measures to protect that type of detail.
Confidentiality measures are crucial for protecting employees, customers, and clients.
2. Business Calls
The ECPA, while protecting electronic communications, allows the employer to monitor business calls.
However, it is banned to record said calls in any case.
The law specifically refers to business calls, not employees' personal calls.
Hidden cameras are legal to install in the workplace.
It is important to have legitimate reasons to install them. One needs to place it in areas where the employees do not require privacy. It is also essential for the cameras not to have microphones.
Each state has distinct details regarding such laws, so checking each province's legislation before installing a camera would be wise.
Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) - Bureau of Justice Assistance, from the link: https://bja.ojp.gov/program/it/privacy-civil-liberties/authorities/statutes/1285
National Labor Relations Act - National Labor Relations Board, from the link: https://www.nlrb.gov/about-nlrb/rights-we-protect/the-law
Do Employers Have To Inform Employees Of Cameras In The Office?, from the link: https://opensourcedworkplace.com/news/do-employers-have-to-inform-employees-of-cameras-in-the-office
Caught on Camera: Security Camera Laws in the U.S. - Deep Sentinel, from the link: https://www.deepsentinel.com/blogs/home-security/security-camera-laws/
What is GDPR, the EU’s new data protection law? - GDPR.EU, from the link: https://gdpr.eu/what-is-gdpr/