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Can My California Employer Install Surveillance Cameras in the Workplace?

SurveCamera

It is not uncommon for employers in California to install surveillance cameras in the workplace to monitor their employees. However, certain types of video recordings are prohibited by California law.

Generally, whether or not an employer can legally install video cameras in the workplace depends on the location of the recording as well as the purpose of using cameras at work.

When are surveillance cameras and surveillance mirrors illegal in California?

Under California Penal Code Section 647(j) PC, it is a crime to install a surveillance camera or surveillance mirror in:

  • Restrooms and bathrooms
  • Showers
  • Fitting or dressing rooms
  • Locker rooms
  • Tanning booths
  • Interior of a bedroom
  • Any other area in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy

A surveillance mirror is a type of mirror that allows you to see through only from one side but looks like a regular mirror on the other side. Also, California Labor Code Section 435(a) prohibits employers from installing surveillance cameras in locker rooms, restrooms, and any other rooms or areas designed for changing clothing.

These laws apply to public and private employers in California. However, employers may be exempted from these laws if they have a court order authorizing them to install surveillance cameras in one or more of these areas.

Employers cannot record union activities or meetings

The federal National Labor Relations Act prohibits employers from photographing or recording videos of employees engaged in union or other protected activities. The federal law makes it illegal to record videos of union meetings and other related activities.

Employers cannot record audio without consent

California Penal Code Section 632 makes it a crime to record audio of confidential conversations without the consent of all parties. Many employers who install surveillance cameras that also make audio recordings are not aware of this.

When can employers legally record their employees at work?

Under California labor law, employers have the right to install video cameras and record their employees at work when their business interest outweighs the workers’ privacy interest.

Therefore, an employer can legally record their employees at work in common areas and other public locations in the workplace unless the employee can prove that they have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the public location.

When can you sue your California employer for using surveillance cameras at work?

You may be able to sue your employer for installing surveillance cameras in the workplace if you can prove each the following four elements:

  1. Your employer violated your right to privacy or any of the laws outlined above
  2. You had a reasonable expectation of privacy, which was violated by the use of the surveillance camera or mirror
  3. You suffered a serious invasion of privacy
  4. You suffered severe harm due to the surveillance

If your employer placed surveillance cameras or mirrors in the workplace, you should consult with an experienced employment lawyer in California to determine whether your employer violated the law in using the recording device. Our Los Angeles invasion of privacy attorneys at Obagi Law Group, P.C. will review your particular situation to determine whether your employer violated your right to privacy. Schedule a consultation with our lawyers by calling at 424-284-2401.

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