Request A Free Consultation
Sunset on a pier in Orange County

California Laws on Workplace Cameras and Surveillance

June 23, 2023 Legal Team

In an era where technology dominates every aspect of our lives, workplace cameras and surveillance systems have become increasingly common. California, known for protecting individual privacy rights, has established laws and regulations to strike a delicate balance between ensuring workplace safety and safeguarding employees’ privacy.

If you believe your right to privacy has been violated by an employer, it is critical to consult an Orange County employment lawyer as soon as possible. They can assess your situation and advise you on your legal options.

When are Workplace Cameras and Surveillance Legal in California?

Surveillance cameras in the workplace are generally legal in California, with certain considerations and limitations. Here are the circumstances under which surveillance cameras are typically allowed:

General Surveillance

Employers have the right to install surveillance cameras in common areas, such as entrances, exits, hallways, parking lots, and other public areas. These areas are considered to have a lower expectation of privacy, and employers are allowed to monitor them for security and safety purposes.

Work Performance Monitoring

Employers can use surveillance cameras to monitor employees’ work performance as long as the monitoring is related to legitimate business interests. This may include monitoring employees’ interactions with customers, compliance with company policies, and adherence to work schedules.

Theft Prevention

Surveillance cameras can be used to prevent theft or unauthorized activities within the workplace. Employers have the right to monitor areas where theft or security breaches are more likely to occur, such as stockrooms, storage areas, or cash registers.

Investigation of Misconduct

Employers can use surveillance cameras to investigate allegations of employee misconduct or violations of company policies. This includes situations where there is a reasonable suspicion of theft, fraud, harassment, or other unlawful activities.

Health and Safety Compliance

Employers may install surveillance cameras to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations, particularly in high-risk industries. This can help monitor and address potential hazards or unsafe practices.

When are Workplace Cameras and Surveillance Illegal in California?

While employers are not legally required to obtain explicit consent from employees to install surveillance cameras in California, it is still important for them to comply with other applicable laws and regulations regarding workplace surveillance. For example, surveillance cameras cannot be installed in:

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

Along with any other spaces where employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Recording in such areas is strictly prohibited and can lead to severe legal consequences for the employer. The only exception is if an employer has obtained a court order authorizing the use of surveillance in these areas.

Union and Collective Bargaining Agreements

Under the federal National Labor Relations Act, employers cannot photograph or record employees participating in union or other protected activities. If employees are covered by a union or collective bargaining agreement, employers must negotiate with the union representatives before implementing any surveillance measures. The agreement should clearly outline the parameters and limitations of the surveillance to protect the rights and interests of the employees.

Audio Recordings

The California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) sets specific regulations for audio recording in the workplace. Under this law, employers must typically obtain the consent of all parties involved before engaging in any form of audio recording. This means that if an employer wishes to record audio conversations in the workplace, they must inform and receive consent from both the employees whose conversations are being recorded and any third parties present.

When Can an Employer Be Sued for Using Surveillance Cameras?

Under California law, employers can be sued if they violate their employees’ reasonable expectation of privacy. However, there must be evidence of the following:

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