From an employee’s perspective it can be an uneasy feeling when an employer installs a video camera in the workplace or a portion of the workplace.
Most of us wouldn’t like the idea of someone watching us while we go about our daily tasks, however, from an employer’s perspective one can see the benefit. It may be that the employer is concerned about physical security and installs a camera at the entrance to the job location, it could be that an employer is concerned about corporate security and installs a camera to record employee’s use of a safe in the office, it could also be that employer wants to record customer behavior or detect shoplifting in a store and the recording of the employees is ancilliary to the main purpose of the surveillance.
Whatever the reason for the video surveillance, an employer will need to ensure that they are in compliance with the applicable privacy legislation.
In British Columbia, the Personal Information Protection Act is the privacy legislation that applies to private sector organizations and governs the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. It is clear within the case law that an individual’s image (as would be captured by a video recording) is their personal information and as a result, an organizations’ collection, use or disclosure of that image within British Columbia must be in accordance with PIPA.
While each specific instance of video surveillance by an employer would need to be considered on a case-by-case basis there are a few general tips that an organization may follow that will assist in this process:
1. Determine if there is a less privacy intrusive means to collect the information (for example, if you are trying to determine when employees arrive at work and leave work, use a card swipe system instead of video recording).
2. Put a corporate policy in place that clearly identifies the business reason for conducting the surveillance and gives your employees notice of how you are going to use and disclose the information.
3. Post a sign where the recording is taking place to notify employees and individuals that may be visiting the job location that they are being recorded.
4. Ensure that you store images in accordance with a retention policy and that this retention policy is in compliance with applicable laws. You should also ensure that the information is stored in secure location.
The bottom line is that before an employer starts installing and recording portions of the workplace they should seriously consider and weigh all of their options and any alternative courses of action to achieve their ultimate objective.
As previously noted, use of video surveillance in a workplace is something that should be considered on a fact specific basis and with appropriate legal advice based on those facts.