Think your boss is not watching you play Solitaire on your computer because she is at an offsite meeting? Think again. More and more employers are installing cameras in the workplace to spy on employees.
According to a survey from the American Management Association (AMA) and The ePolicy Institute, 48% of the workplaces surveyed use video surveillance to prevent theft, sabotage, and other crimes. Just 7% monitor employee performance.
This may seem like an invasion of privacy. Is this legal? To some degree, yes. While your employer is not allowed to record everything in every area of the workplace, the law does allow for some video surveillance. Read on to learn more about New York laws.
What New York Law Says
For the most part, video surveillance is legal in the workplace. However, under Section 203-C of the New York Labor Law, employers cannot record video of an employee in a locker room, restroom or other area where employees change their clothes. The only exception to this is if there is a court order allowing videotaping. If an employer does videotape an employee in these areas, they cannot use the video for any purpose. For example, if they catch an employee stealing from a locker room, they cannot use that video as evidence. They also cannot use the video to change a person’s employment in any way. An employer cannot, for example, demote a person, decrease their pay, change their position or fire them based on what they see in the video.
While video surveillance is allowed outside of these areas, the video cannot contain an audio component. This is called eavesdropping, or mechanical hearing of a conversation, and it is illegal under Section 250.05 of the New York Labor Law. Therefore, employers must ensure that their videos do not capture any conversations between employees or any other people, particularly without the consent of any of the parties involved. Otherwise, they can be charged with a Class E felony.
Any violation of these laws can result in penalties for an employer in New York. The court can award damages and attorneys’ fees and costs to a worker who files a lawsuit. Many employees receive compensation for emotional distress. Any employee who has had their employment affected by improper surveillance should contact an employment law attorney to learn more about their legal rights and available damages. It is possible that more than one employee would be affected by their employer’s actions, so it is possible that it could be a class action lawsuit, which would increase the employer’s liability in terms of damages.
Contact a New York Employment Law Attorney
While New York employers do have the right to videotape you on the job to some degree, the surveillance must be done appropriately. If you believe that your employer’s use of video surveillance was against the law or unethical, you may have an employment law case.
The employment law attorneys at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. can help you deal with any workplace issues you may face. Schedule a free consultation today by calling (347) 464-8694 or filling out the online form.