Video Surveillance Cameras and Employee Privacy
Employers incur liability risks when installing secret video surveillance cameras in the workplace. Here are three strategies to manage these risks. There’s also a Model Policy below that you can adapt. Monitoring the workplace is important to curb fraudulent workers’ comp claims and liability claims, such as staged slip and fall accidents in retail stores and food service operations, and also to improve workplace security.
Strategy #1: Create a Written Surveillance Policy
A written surveillance policy helps employers comply with the notification requirement of the personal privacy laws by informing employees that they’re being monitored and telling them how the footage will be used. Your surveillance policy, like our Model Policy, should tell employees the following:
The purpose of surveillance. Explain why surveillance cameras are being used. Employees are less likely to complain if they know you’ve installed surveillance cameras to increase security in the workplace.
The camera locations and times when surveillance will be conducted. Note where each camera is located and when it will be operational so employees will know when they’re being watched. Also, note if the cameras are on continually or are motion activated.
Permitted uses of footage. Explain the permissible uses for the footage from the surveillance cameras, such as to investigate the theft of stock or equipment. And explain how it won’t be used, such as to monitor employee performance. Also, note who has access to the footage and how long the footage will be maintained. And warn employees that if they use surveillance camera footage inappropriately, they’ll be subject to discipline up to and including termination.
Contact information for person handling privacy issues. Assign someone to handle employee privacy concerns. Then include the name and contact information for that person in the policy. The person in charge of employee privacy concerns can help answer any questions employees have about the use of the cameras and defuse small problems before they become big lawsuits.
Strategy #2: Post Signs
Don’t just hand out your surveillance policy and hope for the best. Meet with employees to discuss the policy with them. And post warning signs about the cameras in obvious places. Then clients, customers, contractors and other visitors to your workplace will be notified of your use of surveillance cameras. Here’s Model Language you can adapt and use on your warning signs:
WARNING: This area and all activities occurring within it are being monitored and recorded by surveillance cameras. For further information, please contact [insert name, title, and phone number].
Strategy #3: Train Camera Operators on Privacy
If your surveillance cameras will be monitored by employees, train those employees on your surveillance policy, the applicable privacy laws and the consequences if the policy or those laws are violated. It’s also a good idea to train any employee who’ll have access to the footage, such as supervisors. Such training may deter employees from, say, playing funny footage of an employee spilling coffee for their friends and colleagues.
Whether employees have a legal right to privacy is almost beside the point. Most employees believe they have at least a limited right to privacy while at work. And most don’t want to be spied on while working at their desks or on the production line. But the use surveillance cameras can not only be appropriate, but also beneficial to employees. So it’s critical that you are sensitive to possible employee concerns when using surveillance cameras and take care to only use such cameras when necessary. (workersxzcompxzkit)
Next: MODEL VIDEO SURVEILLANCE POLICY
Reprinted with Permission: Just Cause http://www.safetycomplianceinsider.com/
by Bongarde Media Co. (ULC), Jim Pearmain, Product Manager Information Services.
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