What are the surveillance laws in the workplace?

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What are the surveillance laws in the workplace?

I work at an answering service. All calls that we receive or that are dialed out of our system are already recorded. Now the employer has installed camera’s in a 1-room office that are video with audio. We were never notified that we were being video/audio taped and it is not listed anywhere in the office or in our handbook. The audio is just to hear our personal conversations when not taking work related calls. What are my rights on this situation? In PA.

Asked on March 16, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

PA is known for having has some of the toughest surveillance laws in the country.  Even law enforcement agencies are prohibited from employing surveillance in many situations without prior court approval.  Additionally harsh penalties can be imposed for violating surveillance laws.  That having been said,  surveillance is legal in locations where there is no "reasonable expectation of privacy."  For instance, while individuals have an expectation of privacy in their own homes, courts have held that they, as employees, typically have no such expectation at workAccordingly, as a general rule it is is perfectly permissable for an employer to have video/audio surveillance in the workplace.  In most instances employee consent is not required.  The only areas that such systems are outright prohibited are in the bathrooms/dressing rooms or the like. 

However, this are of the law is extremelyfact dependent, and can get complicated (particularly with regard to audio surveillance).  The best thing for you to do right now is to contact an employment law attorney in your area. For an hour or so of their time, you can go over the details of your case.  They can then advise you accordingly. 


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