Can I Use Cameras to Monitor Employees?

Q:  We’re considering installing security cameras in our shared work areas and were wondering if there are any legalities we should consider before we proceed.

A:  These days, security cameras are ubiquitous in public places.  We expect them inside malls, in stores and restaurants, and outside in recreational areas, parking lots and at most traffic lights.

In the workplace? not so much.  But, there is a trend in that direction as more companies are concerned about safeguarding proprietary data and intellectual property, ensuring safety and protecting against liability.  Before you bring in the cameras, here are some things to consider.

Employee Privacy - In Florida, employers are allowed to video their employees as long as it’s for work-related reasons –like productivity, monitoring performance, discouraging theft, providing security— AND as long as it’s not done in areas where employees have a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” for instance in restrooms, changing areas or exercise rooms.   Please note that while collecting video is fine, collecting audio is not.  Audio raises concerns about other state and federal wiretapping and privacy laws that are best avoided.

Giving Notice - Even though you are not required to give direct written notice –as long as there are signs letting workers know the area is being video monitored– I recommend you do it.  Notify each employee directly as you start this practice, and in the future notify new employees via your handbook. You should also prepare for some questions from employees.  For instance,  “What’s the purpose  of the monitoring?” Employees may welcome that you’re concerned for their safety, they may not be crazy about being monitored for theft prevention.  Choose how you communicate carefully.

Inadvertent discrimination – Take care that you are not inadvertently singling out an area for video monitoring that only affects one group of employees belonging to a protected class.  For example, if you are monitoring only the shipping area of your business and only employees of a given religion, or race, or nationality (or whatever) are on that crew, it could look like you are discriminating based on their protected group. Not good.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this thought:  Are you being monitored right now?  Unless you’re home, you probably are.  Smile.

To read more blogs by Eva Del Rio on the HR Pro on Demand Blog, please click here



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