Under California law, employers are prohibited from requiring employees to submit to photographs or fingerprints that the employer intends to share with another employer or a third party to the detriment of the employee. This law was adopted in 1913, and was intended to prevent the blacklisting of pro-union workers.

Recently a California Senator requested an opinion about whether it was legal for an employer to video a truck driver’s on-the-job driving. Many commercial employers frequently use video cameras provided by third parties to record the actions of truck drivers or school bus drivers. The footage is usually recorded over, unless the vehicle has an unusual force, such as a crash or hard braking or swerving. If one of those events occurs, the recording is saved, and employers may review it for training or disciplinary purposes.

The California Senator asked the state Attorney General whether videotaping employees for disciplinary purposes violated the law that prohibits taking pictures that the employer intends to use to the detriment of the employee. The Attorney General said that employers are allowed to videotape their employees, viewing that law as outdated. The Attorney General pointed to a law that prohibits commercial drivers from placing anything on the windshield or rearview mirror of a vehicle, except for a video recorder that has the capability of monitoring driver performance to improve driver safety. That law made it clear that video recorders could be used to videotape drivers, and that those recordings may be done by third party contractors.

Many employees do not wish to be videotaped, including truck drivers, but in most cases the employer has a right to record employees. Although employers can’t record you in the restroom or company locker room, employers can use video to monitor employees in most cases.

Employers also can legally spy on their employees in other ways. Employers in many cases are allowed to record every keystroke an employee uses on his or her computer, as well as to monitor personal emails, if they are sent on company computers. Employers also frequently monitor which websites employees visit. Many employers also monitor their employees’ social media accounts, looking for negative information about the company, or if an employee is breaking a company policy, such as by claiming he or she is sick when actually on vacation. Social media accounts can also be used to determine whether an employee’s off-duty conduct, such as consuming alcohol, should result in termination or reprimands. Employers often record employees’ conversations, and may have asked for an employee to sign a consent form before beginning work. Finally, if an employee is using a company-provided device, such as a GPS, copier, company phone, etc., the employer can use that information to figure out what the employee was doing or where the employee was.

Although employers have wide latitude in being able to spy on their employees, employees do have legal rights. They are entitled to a workplace free from harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, age, sex, pregnancy, age, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, and more. Most employees are entitled to time off under the Family Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act for a pregnancy or an illness or a family member’s illness. Employees are entitled to receive pay for all hours worked, which can include pay for overtime, sick leave, vacation time, and more. Employees are also entitled to a workplace that isn’t considered a “hostile work environment” and can’t be subjected to bullying from a boss.

At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that all employees whose legal rights are violated should stand up for themselves. If you are an employee in the Oakland-San Francisco Bay area, and you have been mistreated by an employer, call Micha Star Liberty of Liberty Law at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She works to help employees who have issues with employers. Call her today for a free consultation.

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