When you go shopping do you expect that a camera is watching you? What about when you are at the bank or a museum? All of these places seem like reasonable locations to have cameras monitoring the premises. But what about your job? Do you expect to have a camera watching you while you work? In Florida, for the most part, employers are allowed to record their employees. However, certain exceptions apply.
Can an Employer Video Record at the Workplace in Florida?
Florida courts have held that private employers are free to conduct surveillance of their employees while they are at work. In general, courts have concluded that employees do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy while they are at work. See Jatar v. Lamaletto, 758 So.2d 1167, 1169 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000). As such, employers are free to monitor the work employees are doing on company computers, company emails, and even while sitting at their desk in the office. However, the surveillance must be legitimate, such as related to security or business purposes. Additionally, there are areas that the law says an employer cannot, under any circumstances, have video cameras.
What is Video Voyeurism?
Florida statute §810.145 makes it a criminal offense to record individuals in a place where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy as they undress. This recording, known as video voyeurism, makes it illegal for employers to place cameras in bathrooms, changing rooms, or fitting rooms.
Can an Employer Audio Record at the Workplace in Florida?
While you employer is, for the most part, free to video record you at work, Florida draws a line when it comes to audio recording employees. Under Florida statute §934.03, employers are prohibited from audio recording their employees. In interpreting this statute, Florida courts have held that “An oral communication cannot be intercepted and disclosed without the consent of the parties if there is a reasonable expectation of privacy which is recognized by society.” There is an emphasis on the “reasonable expectation of privacy” aspect, and in certain circumstances an employer may be able to listen in on an employer’s conversations. This exception is limited primarily to instances related to the employee’s work and where he or she should expect that the employer may hear the conversation. For example, in one case the court held that an employee could not have a reasonable expectation of privacy while on a business-related conference call. See Cohen Bros., LLC v. ME Corp., S.A., 872 So. 2d 321, 325 (Fla. 3d DCA 2004).
On the other hand, employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy when speaking to another co-worker while at work, provided they have “an actual subjective expectation of privacy, along with a societal recognition that the expectation is reasonable.” See State v. Smith, 641 So.2d 849, 852 (Fla.1994). If an employer hides a recording device in the office to record an employee’s conversations, the courts will likely find that this violates Florida statute §934.03. In a recent Florida case, the court determined that two employees had a reasonable expectation of privacy where “the parties spoke in a hushed manner, whispering so that other personnel would not hear the contents of the private meeting” and talked behind the closed door of employee’s office. See Denarii Systems, LLC v. Arab, 2013 WL 6162825 (S.D. Fla. 2013). The court stated that “[t]he mere fact that these conversations took place in employer’s office [was] insufficient…to conclude that the employees had no reasonable expectation of privacy.”
As a general rule, employees should always be cautious of what they say and do at work. While you can expect that your employer has a video camera recording you, you have the right to not be audio recorded without your consent.