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Electronic Surveillance in the Workplace

Many California businesses install on-premises video surveillance equipment to improve operations through the security of premises. Electronic surveillance can deter, prevent or help resolve theft, physically threatening incidents or other dangerous conditions or situations.

Under California’s state constitution, all persons are entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy from government as well as commercial intrusion. Thus, businesses may not use overly invasive electronic surveillance systems which unduly interfere with one’s privacy rights.

California law provides helpful guidance on how to balance these competing interests (right to privacy vs. right to monitor business activities):

  • Record video only; never record any audio without consulting with experienced legal counsel. (See, Penal Code section 632).
  • Ensure all cameras are clearly visible.
  • Do not install video cameras in any location in which an employee has a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a bathroom, changing room, or private office. (See, Labor Code section 435).
  • Do not place video cameras in any areas where union meetings or activities may take place.
  • Obtain employees’ advance written consent to be monitored.
  • Inform employees that video feeds may be recorded both during and outside of business hours and that the company reserves the option of retaining or securely discarding/overwriting such recordings in its discretion.

Employers should publish and distribute written policies covering the above points.

See also:

For further assistance, please contact one of our attorneys Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Cindy Bamforth

October 10, 2018