Video Surveillance in the Workplace
The use of video surveillance in the workplace has exploded recently. The main issue being that it is done without the employee’s knowledge. Just because the camera is visible does not mean an employee has waived their right to privacy. An employer should obtain consent from its employees and have a written policy for the operation of video surveillance system in the workplace.
As a general rule, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), requires the individual’s consent and knowledge to the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. Making a surveillance video is a form of collecting personal information.
Employers have the right to monitor their staff in some situations, but only if this is done for a legitimate purpose and the loss of privacy is proportional to the benefit gained. This is achievable only in the narrowest of circumstances.
The Ontario Privacy Commission (the “Commission”) states that the use of each video surveillance camera should be justified on the basis of verifiable specific reports of incidents of crime or significant safety concerns. Further, cameras cannot be installed in the workplace for the purpose of monitoring employee productivity. The urge to monitor the workplace is not enough. The employer must have some specific indication that serious wrongdoing is taking place. A mere hunch, that employees are acting oddly is not adequate.
Employers should have internal policies that guide their surveillance activities. The Commission says these policies should provide that surveillance be limited in duration and properly documented, including how surveillance may be initiated, the information to be collected, and the storage and eventual destruction of the surveillance products.
The best way to establish an employers right to use surveillance video is to publish a clear policy explaining the guidelines and distribute the policy to each employee. Video surveillance in the workplace can be easily justified when it is done openly.
Once employees are put on notice, with surveillance warning signs and a policy is distributed, an employer has very little risk of a complaint regarding an invasion of privacy.
Communications on this website are intended for information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. The lawyers of Waterous Holden Amey Hitchon LLP would be pleased to provide additional details or advice about specific situations.