California Workplace Surveillance Laws

One day, after lunch, Vincent goes to the employee restroom to wash his hands and prepare to go back to work. As he reaches for the paper towels, he notices something. High up on the wall, hidden in the corner, a little red light blinks. He looks closer and sees the gleam of a lens. Sick to his stomach, Vincent realizes that it’s a camera, and he is under surveillance in the restroom. In the past, his employer has mentioned his frustration with employees taking too many bathroom breaks. His boss joked that he “wonders what really goes on in there.” Vincent has a gut feeling that this is an invasion of privacy, and he contacts a lawyer.

By: Brad Nakase, Attorney

Email  |  Call 888-600-8654

When Is It Illegal to Use Surveillance Cameras?

While it is common for California employers to use surveillance cameras in the workplace, certain kinds of surveillance are illegal under state law. The legality of surveillance cameras mainly depends on the location of the cameras and the purpose for their use.

Under California Penal Code Section 647(j) PC, it is illegal to put a surveillance camera in:

  • Restrooms
  • Showers
  • Locker rooms
  • Tanning booths
  • Fitting or dressing rooms
  • Bedrooms

In general, surveillance cameras are prohibited in areas where a person might reasonably expect privacy. This law applies to California employers. However, an employer can receive an exemption from these rules if he or she has a court order authorizing the use of surveillance in any of these areas.

Under the federal National Labor Relations Act, employers are not allowed to photograph or record employees participating in union or other protected activities. This includes union meetings.

It is important to note that surveillance laws do not concern only the visual. Under California Penal Code Section 632, it is illegal for employers to record audio of confidential conversations without the consent of the involved parties. Employers who use surveillance cameras with audio capability in their workplace may not be aware of this law.

When Is It Legal to Record Employees at Work?

Under California law, employers are entitled to install surveillance cameras and record their employees when the surveillance is in the interest of their business.

Specifically, this means that an employer can legally record employees in common areas and public locations in the workplace. Examples might include the break room and the corridors between offices.

When Can an Employer Be Sued for Using Surveillance Cameras?

It is possible to sue an employer for using surveillance cameras. However, there must be proof of each of the following:

  • The employer violated the right to privacy
  • The employee had a reasonable expectation of privacy
  • There was a serious invasion of privacy
  • The employee suffered serious harm as a result of the surveillance

Let’s return to our opening example. Vincent had a reasonable expectation of privacy while in the restroom. By installing a surveillance camera in the restroom, his employer has violated California Penal Code Section 647(j) PC. Vincent has every right to file a lawsuit concerning the violation of his privacy.

We want to hear your story.

3 + 1 = ?

Retaliation for Reporting Harassment at Work

An employer who punishes an employee who reported sexual harassment in the workplace violates state and federal law and is liable for retaliation. Examples of retaliation include demotion, fewer working hours, segregation, or termination.

Obscene and Sexual Gestures a Work

We're not talking about the ubiquitous middle finger that says fuck you. Obscene and sexual gestures at work may include two fingers in a V shape, with a tongue in between. 

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

One of the most common types of sexual harassment is Quid pro quo sexual harassment, and it is one of the easiest to hide. All types of workplace sexual harassment are illegal.

Reporting Time Pay

Wages are what we mean when we use the term "reporting time pay." If employers do not pay all of this at the moment of an employee being terminated, there may be waiting time penalties involved.

Can I Sue My Employer For Not Paying Me Correctly?

Employees work hard and deserve to be paid correctly, and on time. It sucks when an employee works hard, and long hours only to be paid incorrectly while the boss is driving a Lambo or Benz.

8 FAQ Answer: Employees Must Know About Wrongful Termination

If an employee believes that he or she has been unlawfully fired from their job, he or she may file a wrongful termination claim in court. These claims are based on the alleged breaking of federal or state anti-discrimination law, employment contracts, or labor laws.

What Are the Signs of a Toxic Coworker?

The 8 identifying traits of of a toxic coworker are: 1. The toxic coworker is often sarcastic. 2. The toxic coworker often insults and mock others. 3. The toxic coworker is selfish...

Two-Week Notice Letter: 9 Tips and 2 Templates

If an employee decides to resign from his or her job, it is normal and expected to provide their employer with two weeks’ notice. Regardless of why a person is leaving their job, it is considered professional to give their employer enough time to make plans to cover the absence.

Do guys get paid paternity leave?

A father is eligible for paternity leave if three conditions are met: 1) welcome a new child within the first twelve months; 2) Paid into the State Disability Insurance; 3) Has not taken more than eight weeks of paternity leave in the past twelve months.

6 Things to Know About At-Will Employment

“At-will” means that an employer can fire an employee for any reason at any time without getting into legal trouble. The exception is that the reason cannot be illegal in nature.

7 Things Women Should Know About Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is an umbrella term covering many forms of unwelcome verbal and physical sexual attention. Sexual assault, meanwhile, is physical sexual contact or behavior that happens without the consent of the victim.

How Long Is Maternity Leave in California?

Under California law, companies with at least five employees must provide new parents with 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Similarly, companies with at least five employees must also grant up to four months of unpaid pregnancy-disability leave to workers who are unable to work due to pregnancy or childbirth.

10 Tips on California Law Expense Reimbursement Time Limit

Under California labor law, employers are required to reimburse employees for business expenses made during the course of their employment, so long as they are necessary and reasonable in nature. This means that an employer must pay an employee back for any financial losses the employee accepted as part of doing his or her job.

What are the 4 Caregiver rights in California?

Employers often face lawsuits from caregivers for violating caregivers’ rights, such as basic wages. A caregiver is an individual who has taken on the role of both care provider and advocate.

How to Find an Employment Lawyer

Often referred to as work lawyers, employment lawyers are attorneys who specialize in employment law and represent workers in all positions across many industries. In California, employment lawyers understand workers’ rights according to the state’s labor laws and can help wronged employees sue and seek damages for improper or unlawful treatment at a workplace.

6 Tips for Prorated Vacation

Employees can earn time off according to different methods, which are normally specified in an employee handbook. Some employers choose to have employees accrue vacation time based on hours worked.

© Copyright | Nakase Law Firm (2019)