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Spy Camera Surveillance Laws: Are Hidden Cameras in the Workplace Legal?

11th Jun 2019

By 2022, the video surveillance market is expected to grow to $63 billion. It was at $19 billion in 2015. More companies are opting to use cameras in their stores. They want a place where their products, employees, and customers are safe.

One part of video monitoring that is growing in popularity is the use of hidden cameras in the workplace. You may be wondering whether it is legal to use hidden cameras or not.

It is absolutely legal, if you follow certain rules. This guide will walk you through what is considered acceptable use of hidden cameras.

Legitimate Need for Hidden Cameras in the Workplace

When installing hidden cameras, you need a reasonable reason to do so. Most businesses install hidden cameras for added security for their store and employees. You can see them used to watch out for thieves, sabotage, or any violence that may happen on your property.

On top of that, companies may use hidden cameras to evaluate employee performance.

All these situations fall under locations that are public. This includes where your customers and employees interact inside and outside the store. For example, in front of the store, where your products are, and by the cash registers.

For further reasons to record your employees you will need to find out if you can legally do so. This is especially true in more private locations.

Check the Department of Labor agency for your state. You can see what they consider legitimate reasons for installing hidden cameras.

You can't use any footage you gather for other purposes. It is only legal within the established reasons you have put them in place for.

State Laws

It is not required by every state to inform your employees of hidden cameras. Nonetheless, it is highly advised that you inform your employees. If you are placing cameras in more private areas, this may become a rule depending on the state.

Some states make you send out written notices to your employees.

California goes one step further. Employees need to sign a receipt of notice. This shows that they understand why there are cameras and are explicitly aware of them.

There are a few states that you need to get written consent as well. Without the written consent you can't record your employees. If they choose to sign a consent form, they are accepting that the cameras will be there.

A receipt of notice differs from a consent form. A receipt of notice is only an acknowledgment. A consent form is an actual agreement.

By signing the consent form and/or a receipt of notice, it gives companies a level of protection. They have documented proof. A consent form would give you more protection over a receipt of notice.

No matter what process your state requires, it all has to happen before the cameras are installed. You could land into legal trouble otherwise.

Invasion of Privacy

Invasion of privacy can apply to your customers and employees if you record them without their knowledge.

When it comes to your company you want to ensure your products, services, customers, and staff are safe. Those are the biggest reasons for installing hidden cameras. Yet, you have to be careful about where these cameras are set up.

It makes sense to have cameras on the floor. Even so, having them in areas where your employees expect some level of privacy is not always ok.

For example, it is illegal to have hidden cameras in employee bathrooms and locker rooms. Employee break rooms can be on this list depending on what state you live in (and if you have a legitimate reason).

If you work in a hospital you want to ensure your customers' information is safe. This applies anywhere that private information is out in the open.

If you are recording data that is private, you need to have confidentiality measures. This can include social security numbers, medical information, legal documents, etc.

National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)

The NLRA protects Union members from their employers. Your company can't record any protected or peaceful union activities. This includes union meetings or conversations, organizing a union, marches, protests, etc.

If you get caught monitoring union activities, you will be forced to stop immediately. Further action may happen depending on the severity of your infraction.

Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)

The ECPA protects U.S. citizens from wiretapping and electronic surveillance. Depending on the type of business you have, this law can have an impact. The act isn't very specific on how this law applies to the workplace in general.

The more private the information you deal with, the more likely you are to encounter this act.

One thing is certain, you will need to get approval if you are going to record private information.

Audio Surveillance

The laws become much more strict if you are using hidden cameras that also have an audio component. Review your state requirements to see what is and isn't allowed for your company.

In many places, it is restricted if you don't have consent from the people you are monitoring. You need legitimate reasons behind using audio surveillance.

Work Safe and Smart

Having hidden cameras in the workplace helps provide a safer environment.

At the same time, you don't want to run into legal issues. Make sure to do your research before you start installing hidden cameras in your company.

Check out this post if you want to learn more about hidden cameras and how they can benefit you.

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