Cameras in the Workplace: Where's the Fine Line?

Tread carefully when engaging in employee surveillance. Workplace monitoring can be an invasion of privacy.

Posted by Timothy Dimoff in on January 10th, 2017
Filming can infringe on privacy rights so employers must be very careful.
In this age of electronics, many employers are considering the use of cameras in the workplace and asking if this is legal. The answer isn’t a simple yes or no.

There are many reasons a business may use hidden or open cameras in their place of business. The most obvious reason is to prevent theft or to monitor what employees are doing at work. They are generally legal as long as the company has a legitimate need to film, the areas under surveillance are public, and employees know about the filming.

However, there is a fine line here because filming can infringe on privacy rights so employers must be very careful. There may be legal limits on the places where cameras can be placed, notice requirements that need to posted, and limits on the type and the extent of the allowed surveillance. Employees and consumers have a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy.

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Workplace Surveillance Laws

Since state laws can vary, it is also important that all businesses check out their state's laws on the issue.
Most employees or customers don’t mind if retail establishments conduct video surveillance to guard against theft, but other uses of video cameras may be questionable. For example:

  • Can the employer use hidden cameras to try to catch employees or customers stealing?
  • Are cameras in the bathrooms or locker rooms allowed?
  • What about video surveillance of employees while they’re working?

This is where company policies and employee handbooks are very important. And since state laws can vary, it is also important that all businesses check out their state’s laws on the issue.

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Privacy in the Workplace

An employer needs to have a legitimate business reason for conducting surveillance using cameras in workplace spaces.
Most states have privacy-related laws, intended to protect consumers. Some states have also passed laws that deal with workplace privacy, including the use of cameras and video equipment. As a general rule, an employer needs to have a legitimate business reason for conducting surveillance using cameras in workplace spaces.

Employers should also be careful about conducting any audio recordings in the workplace because of the existence of state and federal wiretapping laws, which may apply in these circumstances regardless of the reasons behind the video surveillance. And if video cameras in a business setting are also capturing sound, employers may run the risk of breaking eavesdropping or wiretapping laws.

Workplace Cameras: Location is Important

The cameras need to be placed in appropriate locations or you risk legal action for invasion of privacy issues.
If you do install video surveillance equipment, the placement of this equipment is very important. The cameras need to be placed in appropriate locations or you risk legal action for invasion of privacy issues. Additionally, if you improperly use cameras to create a hostile environment in the workplace, you also leave your company open to possible harassment or discrimination lawsuits.

Before installing any video equipment in your workplace always check state laws or consult with an attorney who has experience handling cases involving cameras in the workplace.


Timothy Dimoff
Timothy Dimoff

President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security Expert

Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues.
He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University.

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