Surveillance or Safety - The Ethics Of Cameras In The Workplace

The use of video surveillance cameras in the workplace is a topic of much debate, with strong cases for both sides of the argument. For those against it, the focus is on ethics, with the claim that surveillance cameras in the workplace violate employees' right to privacy. 

The argument for the use of cameras is based on safety and security. However, the benefits for a business can be much broader. Many organizations today are increasingly recognizing the value of surveillance cameras to help address workplace compliance and Work, Health and Safety Policies.

When it comes to surveillance, privacy rights are often at the center of most concerns. Transparency is key to building trust between employer and employees, ensuring that safety and security drive surveillance, not Big Brother monitoring that can quickly lead to poor workplace morale and lowered efficiencies.  

Knowing the basic surveillance laws is crucial for organizations that are considering video security or already use security cameras. With that in mind, we take a deep dive into workplace video surveillance, exploring it from both a legal and ethical point of view.

A rise in the use of security cameras in workplaces

Surveillance cameras recording employees in the workplace

As technology advances, video security is becoming more prevalent in the modern workplace. Business owners and organizations are increasingly installing security cameras to help protect their assets and employees - reducing internal theft in the process.

According to the 2011 book Human Relations at Work, more than 50% of employers in the United States use video surveillance at the workplace. With that number only rising as technology continues to integrate into every part of our lives, it's important to understand what surveillance options are available so you find the video surveillance system that best suits your business.

Are security cameras in the workplace legal?

According to federal laws, the use of security cameras and video surveillance in the workplace is legal. State laws may vary, so it's important to be informed. There are, however, limits to how surveillance cameras can be used. Firstly, an organization must have legitimate business reasons for using security cameras in the workplace. Security and safety will easily cover this.

Secondly, video surveillance can not be used in areas where people have a "reasonable expectation of privacy." This includes:

  • Restrooms
  • Locker Rooms
  • Employee Lounges

Notifying your employees

Employers are generally required to inform their employees if security cameras are present, although state regulations vary.

To ensure that employees understand and consent to workplace surveillance, be sure to inform them of the policy and where the cameras are located.

Are security cameras in the workplace ethical? 

Privacy is one of the most important considerations for employers. In order to maintain a strong relationship between employer and employees, transparency is key. It’s also crucial that you draw the line between creating a safe and secure work environment and constantly monitoring your employees and impeding on their right to privacy.

At SCW, our security cameras and systems are built to protect your employees and your assets. For us, it’s about delivering peace of mind protection, not compromising privacy.

Legal Use Cases for Video Surveillance

Although there are no federal laws prohibiting you from installing security surveillance cameras, most of the time, you will need a reason to do so. 

Here are a few examples of when you can legally install a surveillance camera in your workplace.

Theft prevention

Theft is one of the main reasons most businesses invest in a video security system to protect their most valuable assets. Theft comes in two forms:

Internal theft: When it’s one of your employees stealing anything from office supplies and petty cash to sensitive company data.

External theft: Refers to those outside the company and includes visitors, business partners and customers. The most common form of this is shoplifting.

If you’re looking to reduce or prevent crime at your workplace or premises, it’s important to choose the cameras best suited to your business. For example, smarter security systems for convenience stores now offer a combination of cutting-edge cameras, AI-powered analytics and access control systems.

Employee (and customer) safety and wellbeing

The safety and security of both your staff and your customers are paramount to any business. 

Not only will visible security cameras deter any criminal activity, but it also captures important footage if there are any health or safety incidents that require insurance coverage. 

Tip: The addition of surveillance cameras can actually lower your insurance premium while also protecting you against insurance fraud.

Employee accountability

Earlier, we spoke about the stress and lack of trust that can come from monitoring your employees. There are, however, times when it may be necessary. For example, if you suspect the behavior of a staff member is negatively impacting their performance, the company, or customers.

Monitoring can also improve employee productivity when you have an open and transparent policy around cameras and surveillance in the business.

Customer On Employee Crime & Abuse

Video cameras can be extremely beneficial in the workplace and can help to prevent customer on employee crime. With video evidence, employers are able to get a better understanding of what is happening on the job without having to rely solely on second-hand accounts. (he said, she said) 

Although companies should strive for policies that protect workers (for example: anti-bullying, anti-hate crime, and sexual harassment polices), CCTV footage offers objective evidence in cases of customer on employee conflict. As such, it plays an important part in creating an atmosphere that values the safety and well-being of its employees. Not only does this make working conditions more secure, it also reinforces a culture of respect amongst customers, employees and colleagues alike.

A smart choice for security and safety at your business

When installed and used with valid reasons, using security cameras in your office or business is both legal and ethical.

Ensuring you comply with your state's employee privacy laws, it's a great way to create a safe and secure working environment for your staff and customers.

Video surveillance systems for your industry

SCW is ready to handle any job, no matter how large or small. With virtually no limitation to the number of surveillance cameras we can provide, let us secure your assets even to the level of a worldwide enterprise.

Please contact our team if you have any questions about using video surveillance legally and safely, or if you would like to install or upgrade your video surveillance system.

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