Monday, February 6, 2012

Tips: Video Recording Employees in the Workplace

Employees are videotaped in the workplace by the company using CCTV cameras, or by fellow employees using their cellphones.
Companies undertake video surveillance of their workplace for various reasons which include reduction of workplace thefts by employees, recording evidence of sexual harassment, sabotage and workplace violence, to detect break-ins, for crisis control (fire evacuations), for access monitoring (at the perimeter and datacenters) and in a few cases to track employees’ on-the-job performance. In some cases both video and audio may be recorded.
The other way of being videotaped in the workplace is by other employees on their cell phones. Video surveillance by companies is only used for internal purposes but cell phone recordings may be circulated, and posted on social networking sites with embarrassing consequences.
Though laws may vary by country and state, in general it is not unlawful for a company to monitor employees on the companies premise, and companies are not mandated to inform their employees that they are under surveillance. However, over 80% of companies have a written policy and signed employee agreement which clearly communicate to employees that they are or can be monitored.
Unreasonable invasion of privacy like surveillance in changing rooms and bathrooms are unlawful and generally prohibited by law.
Unions may negotiate limitations on video recordings of unionized workers as part of their contracts.
Video cameras that also capture audio recordings may be subject to laws relating to audio recording, including wiretap and eavesdropping laws.  It seems to me that such audio recording may not be legal in many countries or states. In the US, the following report provides an overview of its legality state wise Can We Tape? A Practical Guide to Taping Phone Calls and In-Person Conversation in the 50 States and D.C.
When one employee records another and posts the clip on a social media site, it may not be considered unlawful unless it has been filmed when the employee is in a state of undress or in an area like a changing room. Many companies expressly prohibit on premise filming as part of their policy and in these cases on an employee complaint may be able to take disciplinary action.
I would like to end this blog with a disclaimer. In this blog, I have indicated what some companies do currently; it is not an endorsement of the legal position of these practices. Laws vary in different countries and states and it is advisable to take legal opinion in drafting policies and undertaking any form or surveillance.

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