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CCTV Legalitiesfrom: Maxx Home Guides
If you're considering installing a CCTV system at your place of business or home, you may be wondering if this idea may come back to harm you. CCTV is simply a set of cameras that record the movements of your employees or individuals who may be inside your home, and then transmitting these images to a monitor or to the Internet where you can view them.
This type of closed-circuit television surveillance has been around for quite a while, and many businesses use it for a variety of reasons. Some like the idea of making known their surveillance systems exist, so that employees, customers and clients will modify their behavior accordingly. This type of CCTV usage is usually referred to as deterrence and it may deter theft, violence, robbery, employee negligence or misbehavior, etc. These surveillance systems are often stationed outside a business to both deter crimes, such as vandalism, or record crimes, such as breaking and entering.
The legalities of your CCTV system are generally your responsibility, but there are some decided restriction you must consider. Here is a brief overview:
You should refrain from placing any CCTV equipment in areas where employees or customers would reasonably expect to have some privacy. These areas include bathrooms, toilets, showers, locker rooms, changing rooms, dressing rooms, and also motel and hotel rooms. In 13 states it's forbidden by law to place CCTV equipment in such locations.
These states are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Utah. While in the other states you may be able to get away with placing a hidden camera or even an overt camera in a private place, in these states you'll be breaking the law. The only way to get around this prohibition is by getting each individual's express permission to the taping.
For employees, it's further generally held that certain areas must be off-limits to CCTV surveillance, such as break rooms, lunch rooms, employee lounges, smoking lounges, or other areas on company property where employees may go during off hours to eat their lunches, take their breaks, or wait for their shifts to begin. This is especially stringently prosecuted if such stipulations have been made a part of a collective bargaining agreement in the case of union employees.
Another restriction you'll need to be aware of pertains to your actual use of the information received from your recordings. What will you do with your knowledge that employee A is getting a divorce, and that employee B is a diabetic? If this personal information somehow leaks to the general population of employees and it can be traced back to you, you may well be accused of creating a hostile work environment.
In addition, consider that such information won't be admissible for use during performance reviews or when considering someone for a promotion and failure to comply with this regulation may well be considered as discrimination against an employee for reasons of illness, gender, marital status, and so forth. Tread lightly here or you may find yourself on the wrong end of a subpoena!
Even though privacy advocates generally hold that in the states where it isn't expressly forbidden to place a hidden camera in a private area without employees' and customers' permission, anything goes, this is far from the truth! Litigators have found that employers who resort to such "bugging" will have to prove they installed a hidden camera in such an area specifically not for the reason of seeing an employee or customer partially or completely unclad.
As you may imagine, it's very difficult to prove you didn't intend to do something, so the safest course of action will be to stay away from installing anything hidden in such areas.
When contemplating an action that could affect the way you do business be sure to consult an attorney first.
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