In most states in the USA is legal for employers to install video surveillance cameras in the office/workplace if they are for a legitimate business concern. Many employers use video cameras to prevent internal theft or for security purposes, which generally is permissible as long as the employers notify workers about the surveillance. There may be legal limits on the places where cameras can be placed, as well as notice requirements and limits to extent to which surveillance can occur. But there are some instances where it is not allowed. Employers may not use surveillance to monitor union activity, some state laws limit how and where employees may be monitored.
When employers use video cameras to monitor employees, they must have a legitimate business reason. State privacy laws may determine the extent at which video monitoring is considered legitimate and therefore lawful. As a business owner, you always risk the liability of a lawsuit if you choose to install surveillance cameras in the office.
Reasons and methods for workplace video surveillance
Prevent internal theft
If a business is having an issue with internal theft or employees that are engaging in dishonest behavior, employers have a legitimate reason to install security cameras in the office.
The state will allow employers to use video surveillance to protect any individuals who may be threatened by criminal acts.
Business owners have indicated that surveillance cameras can help to improve workplace productivity and motivate employees to perform their day-to-day duties without slacking off.
Location of cameras at work
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. But while it is fair to say that an employee working behind the counter at a jewelry store has no reasonable expectation of privacy, employees who work in cubicles probably expect some privacy. Additionally, employers may have a difficult time proving that employees who only interact with other employees at the workplace need to be monitored.
Notice requirements and hidden cameras
The cameras need to be placed in public areas. In most states, installing video surveillance cameras in the workplace is considered illegal if they are placed in certain areas. Specifically, areas that are intended for employee rest or comfort. These are some of the areas that are not considered public include:
- Locker rooms
- Break rooms
- Employee lounges