Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Are Employers Taking Monitoring and Surveillance Too Far?

In our presentation concerning employment privacy, more specifically employee monitoring, I touched on how employers have the ability to monitor anywhere in the workplace with the exception of employers in California. I mentioned how I read a case where an employee wanted to make a claim against his employer for installing hidden cameras behind the mirror in the bathroom. Here is a little more information about the case, “Consolidated Freightways ("Consolidated"), the defendant in this action, is a large trucking company.1 It concealed video cameras and audio listening devices behind two-way mirrors in the restrooms at its terminal in Mira Loma, California, ostensibly to detect and prevent drug use by its drivers.” Furthermore, the case states, “Employees at the terminal discovered the surveillance equipment when a mirror fell off the men's restroom wall, exposing a camera with a wire leading out through a hole in the wall behind it. Subsequent investigation revealed a similar hole in the wall behind the mirror in the adjoining women's restroom.” The California law states, “Under California Penal Code § 653n, "[a]ny person who installs or who maintains . . . any two-way mirror permitting observation of any restroom, toilet, bathroom, washroom, shower, locker room, fitting room, motel room, or hotel room, is guilty of a misdemeanor." Thus, Consolidated's installation of the two-way mirror was a direct violation of California criminal law. Soon after discovery of the camera, truck driver Lloyd Cramer, an employee at the Mira Loma terminal, brought a class action suit in state court alleging invasion of privacy on behalf of all "individuals lawfully on the premises . . . who had a reasonable expectation of privacy while using [Consolidated's] restrooms." Guillermo Alfaro, another Consolidated employee, and 281 others brought a separate suit seeking damages for invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress. They also sought injunctive relief to end the use of the surveillance devices.”

After reading this short excerpt from the case, I was wondering how you feel about employers across the country, potentially your future employer, installing hidden cameras behind the mirrors in bathrooms, locker rooms, ect? If you recall from the presentation, 75 percent of employers monitor without any individualized cause whatsoever, which means they can or may be watching internal bathroom activity and in my mind, this is not okay. I was hoping to spark any additional comments or opinions on the subject.

If you wish to read the case go to this website [], scroll down to selected cases, and click the first one, it is Cramer v. Consolidated Freightways (PDF), No. 98-55657.


Blogger Lilly said...

This case is absolutely ridiculous. I cannot believe that the employers would go so far as to put cameras in the bathrooms to supposedly "prevent drug use." Not only is that unethical, but it's extremely illegal. Where does it say that employers can put cameras in the bathrooms (as you mention near the end of your post)?

I personally think that it is scary to think about the surveillance society that we live in today. Granted, surveillance does have its benefits, but when it comes down to it, I tend to think that we often take it too far. For example, as my group mentioned in our presentation today, there are at least 4.2 million CCTVs throughout the whole of Britain, with the average person being caught on film about 300 times a day.

There is also a great deal of debate about whether or not CCTVs are effective. I digress quite a bit from your post, but it is my personal feeling that we should adopt privacy laws more similar to those of the UK, which require employers to inform and gain consent from employees. I don't quite understand why that isn't done here. After all, the whole point of surveillance in many organizations is to make sure employees are doing what they are supposed to be doing. By letting them know that they are being watched, it seems that it would give them a heads up and keep them on track. Otherwise, if you don't inform employees that they are being watched, it's almost as if the company is out to get them, just waiting for them to slip up...

5:10 PM  

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