May 24, 2022
As technology advances, video security is becoming more prevalent in the modern workplace. Business owners and organizations worldwide increasingly utilize video surveillance to help protect their assets and employees.
For an organization looking to implement video security, or currently using security cameras, understanding the basic surveillance laws is critical to help protect you and your employees.
In this article, we’ll discuss the following key points:
Yes, security cameras and video surveillance in the workplace are legal according to U.S. Law.
However, this comes with a caveat: an organization must have legitimate business reasons for using security cameras in the workplace. For most businesses, this is an easy standard to meet. The following section will go over common use cases in more detail.
In almost all cases, employers must disclose the presence of security cameras to their employees. It's highly recommended to notify employees of the workplace surveillance policy, including camera locations, and obtain written confirmation of their understanding and consent to be recorded. Most employers disclose this information in an employee handbook.
Exact regulations vary on a state-by-state basis. Some states outlaw hidden cameras outright—Connecticut, for example, legally requires employers to notify employees of video surveillance. Meanwhile, some courts in other states have protected the use of hidden cameras in the workplace in highly specific circumstances.
For more information, see the article Are You Required to Notify Employees or Customers That You Have Security Cameras?
A legitimate business purpose must justify video surveillance at work. Nearly all organizations have a genuine need to enforce security, investigate illegal or improper conduct, and oversee onsite operations and productivity. These all qualify as legitimate business needs that rely on video surveillance to be most effective.
In practice, this means that employers can legally monitor a wide scope of activities at work. Video surveillance supports many use cases, and these are some of the most common:
Safety is a key reason that organizations use video surveillance. If an organization has been broken into or has had problems with disruptive or unwanted people entering their space, video surveillance is legal in most states to ensure better physical security.
This is especially common in workplaces that serve the public or have large numbers of clients on site:
Security cameras are permitted in most states if an organization believes its employees are engaging in unlawful behavior (drinking, illicit drugs, engaging in dangerous or reckless behavior) while on the clock.
For example, chain restaurant Blake’s Lotaburger caught two employees committing credit card fraud. Their security cameras allowed their security team to discover the crime and provide law enforcement with the necessary evidence to hold the perpetrators responsible.
If an organization has had issues with customers stealing in the past, then the use of video security is legal. Using video security can help prevent external theft from reoccurring.
For example, Colony Hardware upgraded its video surveillance system in order to deal with theft. One of their locations was robbed by thieves who disabled their old NVR-style surveillance system and stole a massive amount of merchandise. This prompted Colony to switch to a modern cloud-based video surveillance system with cameras that cannot be compromised as a group.
Theft prevention is not limited to external causes. Video surveillance can be a powerful tool to reduce shrinkage and internal theft. If an organization has an issue with company theft or employees are engaging in dishonest behavior, then the use of security cameras is lawful so long as your state deems it legal to do so.
In general, video surveillance is not permitted in areas where people have a "reasonable expectation of privacy." As a rule of thumb, this includes areas such as:
At a federal level in the U.S., no explicit laws prohibit employers from monitoring workers with video surveillance. In general, determining what level of monitoring vs. privacy is acceptable is left to the states.
Certain exceptions exist—for example, the federal government prohibits video surveillance in these circumstances:
Audio surveillance is much more restricted than video surveillance. Many laws exist at the federal and state level that prohibit the recording of audio.
If you intend to use audio surveillance alongside video surveillance, it's critical to consult your local laws to ensure you comply.
Using security cameras in your office is entirely legal as long as you have a valid reason and it does not violate your state's employee privacy laws. If you are unsure about the legality of your use case, it's best to consult a legal representative or reach out to your State Labor Agency.
If you have any questions about using video surveillance in a safe and legal manner or would like to install or upgrade your video surveillance system, please reach out to the Rhombus team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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