Hidden cameras in the workplace have long been a debated topic. In some ways, cameras offer security, ensuring a safe environment for employees. On the other hand, there are questions as to whether or not placing hidden cameras in the office infringes on an employee's right to privacy. But while there are ethical and privacy issues associated with hidden cameras, many states, including Michigan, have laws that regulate camera surveillance.
Michigan is one of 13 states that prohibit the use of devices that record, photograph or overhear events or conversations in private places. Private areas include places where a reasonable amount of privacy is expected, such as a restroom or a locker room. Designated “private” areas may be put under surveillance only if permission is given from the individual or party being monitored. However, public areas, such as stores and streets, can legally be put under surveillance to ensure public safety.
While Michigan law prohibits camera surveillance in private places, most work areas are considered public and can be legally monitored without employee permission. Store security camera monitoring, for example, is allowed under the law, as stores use cameras to prevent theft and to ensure the safety of customers and employees. However, placing cameras in the dressing room or bathroom area of the store would not be allowed under Michigan law. Likewise, many places of business, such as company offices, may be monitored, as they are not considered “private.”
Apart from cameras, employers often rely on additional forms of surveillance, such as monitoring Internet activity and email accounts. While the laws in Michigan prohibit wiretapping or monitoring of private residents, companies can legally monitor employees when they are using company equipment. Employees, therefore, do not have the right to privacy when using workplace emails or Internet because these belong to the corporation, which is responsible for how they are used. Therefore, it is important for workers to be mindful when using corporate communications.
While Michigan law may be slightly vague when it comes to camera surveillance, there are ways for employers and employees to protect themselves. To ensure a comfortable work environment, companies should make employees aware of workplace monitoring, such as camera surveillance or email/Internet usage policies. Likewise, employees should abstain from performing any activities in the workplace that may possibly be considered inappropriate or reflect badly on the company or its employees.