While we all know that company computers are strictly for work, many have been known to tiptoe on the line of personal use on company computers. After all, how harmless is a quick check of Facebook throughout the workday? Despite the company policy and knowing that employers will monitor their internet search history, many aren’t aware that they are being watched via hidden camera as they go about their day at work.
The big question that has yet to be clarified: is this kind of surveillance illegal? It’s somewhat clear that an employer doesn’t have an unfettered right to spy. There are both federal and California state laws that limit in what ways and how often an employer can use electronic monitoring devices in the workplace.
Oral communications are better protected than video recordings. The California Invasion of Privacy Act, for example, prevents your employer from recording oral communications without your consent. The law states that both parties of a telephone conversation have a reasonable expectation of privacy – so even if the employee knows the employer is recording their conversation, the person on the other end of the line wouldn’t know – making the recording illegal.
When it comes to video recordings, employers can’t intrude when an employee has a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Employers aren’t allowed to record employees in private areas like restrooms or changing rooms. They’d also need a strong justification for the intrusion, such as safety concerns. What this likely means is that if your employer is taking video recordings of you at work, they shouldn’t be doing so without your knowledge when you are on break, or at times when there is no real justification for doing so.
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act limits employers’ monitoring of their staff. It prevents interception of oral communication when an expectation of privacy exists, and also includes the Stored Communications Act, which restricts an employer from using/accessing the servers of a third-party company where video footage of its employees are held. California statutes as well as California common law also restrict employers from spying on their employees in the workplace.
At the Carter Law Firm, we have discovered that many employers aren’t aware of the limits to the surveillance due to the constant shifting of technology. Often they are using surveillance improperly, and when they do, you – the employee – suffer significant damages.
The Carter Law Firm has been successful in cases against the largest companies for violating their employees’ rights. Have you ever been a victim of unlawful recordings? If so, you could recover damages for these violations. Let’s set up a time for a free consultation.