Employment, Labor and Benefits/Privacy and Security Alert: Conducting Workplace Surveillance - California Supreme Court Identifies Guidelines for Employers


The California Supreme Court has brought some clarity to the question of when an employer can lawfully conduct surveillance of an employee in certain closed–off areas of the workplace, such as a private office. Previously, the law had been clear only at each end of the employee privacy spectrum. On one end, the case law made it clear that employers have the right to videotape employees in the workplace if such surveillance takes place in open and accessible spaces within the sight and hearing of coworkers, supervisors, and the general public (e.g., department store shopping areas). On the other end of the spectrum, the case law provides employees with a right of privacy in the workplace from an employer’s surveillance in areas with restricted access or limited view reserved for inherently personal acts (e.g., locker rooms and restrooms). Left unanswered was the gray area in between.

In Hernandez v. Hillsides, the California Supreme Court has now provided more clarity, and confirmed that while employees have a right of privacy in an enclosed office, no invasion of privacy rights occurs when employers monitor employees in such an enclosed area for legitimate business reasons, so long as the surveillance is properly limited in scope and intrusiveness.

Please see full alert for more information.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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