As a business operator in California, you may think recording employees with video cameras while they’re at work is a perfectly legal way to keep your business on track. Surveilling employees can help track activity to ensure performance, and capture any internal theft. But is monitoring employees with security cameras really legal in California? Read more to find out more about surveillance cameras in the workplace laws in California.
It is crucial to become familiar with California recording laws if you set up a security camera system in your business. Making sure your business security system is 100% compliant with California law gives you peace of mind that you won’t face legal action down the road. It also maintains the privacy of your employees, while reaping the security benefits of video surveillance.
Want to know more? Read on to find out about surveillance cameras in the workplace laws in California.
California Recording Laws At Work
California recording laws at work hold businesses to specific regulations that govern how they can record employees. Video recordings of workers in California are generally allowed as long as they take place in a “public” area, and as long as all video monitoring is disclosed to employees. According to the California Labor Code section 435, “No employer may cause an audio or video recording to be made of an employee in a restroom, locker room, or room designated by an employer for changing clothes, unless authorized by court order.” There are further limitations on audio recording and tracking employees outside the workplace.
Is Workplace Audio Recording Legal?
California is a two-party consent state to audio recordings, meaning consent is required from anyone who is being recorded. Audio recordings that violate this rule are not permitted as evidence in California court. Without explicit consent from employees, employers cannot legally make audio recordings of them. There are several measures employers can take to ensure legality and avoid future disputes:
- Include the employee’s consent to be recorded in the audio tape
- Obtain written consent from employees
- Avoid audio recording in private places such as restrooms
- Disclose any phone call monitoring with an announcement or beep signal
What About Recording Phone Calls in California?
California Penal Code §632 specifies that, in cases where employers are monitoring employee phone calls for quality control, phone calls taking place within California cannot legally be taped unless all participants are informed of the recording. This can be done with a beep at the beginning of the call, which is common in customer service calls. When it comes to personal calls, employers are prohibited from monitoring these unless employees are making these calls from business phones after being told not to.
California Recording Laws In Public
Employees are not given a right to privacy by California courts in public locations within the workplace, such as common areas and walkways. California recording laws in public dictate that as long as employers do not infringe on employee rights by recording private areas, or conduct any monitoring considered “highly offensive”, video monitoring of workers is allowed — as long as all monitoring is disclosed to the employees. To determine if recordings are offensive, California courts may consider the time and length of the recording, who captured the recording, and who has access to it.
California Law Video Recording Employees – When Is it Reasonable?
As a business operator, you need to make sure you are protected from legal disputes, as these can be disastrous for your business. This means making sure no unreasonable video surveillance takes place, and no privacy violations occur. Employees may protest to being constantly monitored, especially if they work in a job that does not involve highly confidential information or large sums of money. Video monitoring of employees may be considered more reasonable if they are working with the public, as recording of these interactions can ensure quality and provide useful insights into any workplace incidents.
California Privacy Laws: Videotaping
The California Constitution guarantees the privacy of its citizens in the workplace, schools, government buildings and other property. This means that, while in the workplace, California employees have the right to privacy in areas where there is a reasonable expectation of being left alone. For example, the California Labor Code prohibits video monitoring of employees in restrooms, showers, locker rooms, and dressing rooms. Lunch rooms and break rooms may also count as private areas. California also specifically prohibits surveillance mirrors (mirrors that appear normal but are see-through on one side) in private areas such as showers and changing rooms.
Video Recording Without Consent California
It is illegal to monitor employees without their knowledge and consent in California (though federal law does not require employers to inform workers they are being recorded). Employers are required to tell all people who are being recorded the extent and duration of the recording. Employers must obtain explicit understanding and consent from those being monitored. A smart move if you’re going to record your employees is to obtain written consent from everyone recorded. It can also be helpful to put up signs notifying employees that video recording is taking place. Video recording without consent in California should always be avoided, as it could result in disputes and financial damages to your company.
Workplace Surveillance Laws California – Can Employees Sue?
If employee feel their privacy rights are violated by employer monitoring activities, they have the ability to recover emotional damages in California court, where outcomes largely depend on case-by-case judicial decisions. Judges typically consider several factors, including:
- The extent of the recording
- Whether the recording caused the employee harm
- Whether privacy was violated
- Whether the business’s interest outweighs the employee’s privacy interest
- Whether the case involves highly confidential information or large sums of money
If the “reasonable expectation” of employee privacy is violated, and if the invasion was serious or caused employees to suffer harm, employees may sue California businesses.
What About California Employee GPS Tracking?
California Penal Code §637.7 restricts electronic tracking on the part of California employers. Employers may use GPS tracking to track company property, including vehicles and laptops. GPS tracking of employee movements inside the workplace while performing work is also generally permitted. This especially makes sense if employees are performing deliveries or outside sales. However, tracking the whereabouts of any employee outside the workplace and not in possession of company property is considered a violation of privacy rights in California — especially if the monitoring takes place outside work hours.
Want to learn more about California surveillance camera laws in the workplace? We can help. Thanks to 14+ years designing and installing security systems in California, we’re familiar with video monitoring laws on a local, state, and federal level. Get in touch with our expert security consultants today!