In a 2005 study, the American Management Association found that 16 percent of employers monitored their staff with video cameras. In many cases, employees know they are being filmed, with the understanding that the cameras help to deter or catch thieves. However, laws on surveillance exist to protect employees' privacy from unscrupulous filming or recording. Florida laws build upon national regulations that govern workplace surveillance.
Under Florida law, law enforcement personnel may conduct surveillance necessary to law enforcement. Sometimes the line between legal and illegal surveillance can be hazy, however. Rather than trying to justify the purpose of the surveillance in the workplace in a legal battle, Florida employers should post signs alerting employees that they might be filmed or recorded. Under state law, surveillance is legal in areas not considered private and where signs are posted or cameras are obvious.
Employers may not record videos, images or sound recordings of employees for purposes of amusement under Florida law. They may not broadcast such recordings or images, which means posting them on the Internet, emailing them or otherwise sending them to any other person for the purpose of entertainment. Likewise, employers may not share recordings or images for the purpose of embarrassing or harming the subject.
Customer and Client Surveillance
Customers in a public setting like a store or parking lot should expect they might be watched using video surveillance measures. Employers do not have the right to monitor customers or clients in dressing rooms or restrooms using video or other surveillance methods inside the room. An employer could observe the customer from outside the room, as long as this doesn't invade the customer's privacy. For instance, if the door sits six inches off the floor, the employer or a staff member could see the customer put merchandise in a bag and catch the shoplifter before he leaves.
Four guidelines hold true in all states, and in legal cases, these guidelines help courts to determine on an individual basis whether an employer had the right to use surveillance. First, employees are entitled to have reasonable expectations for privacy in certain contexts, like while changing in locker rooms, using the restroom or holding union meetings. Second, monitoring should take place only for a specific, work-related purpose. Third, employers should not discriminate against employees by surveying only one particular demographic. Fourth, employers should notify employees that they may use surveillance measures.
Most surveillance offenses are misdemeanors in the first degree, punishable by a prison term of one year or less, or a $1,000 fine. In some cases, the act is considered a felony in the third degree, punishable by a fine of $5,000 or a longer prison sentence, up to 10 years for habitual offenders.
- Nolo: Cameras and Video Surveillance in the Workplace
- "Hospitality Law"; Stephen C. Barth and David K. Hayes; 2008
- The Florida Legislature: 877.26
- The Florida Legislature: 810.145
- The Florida Legislature: 775.082
- The Florida Legislature: 775.083
Melanie J. Martin specializes in environmental issues and sustainable living. Her work has appeared in venues such as the Environmental News Network, "Ocean" magazine and "GREEN Retailer." Martin holds a Master of Arts in English.