Caught on tape: Cameras and the workplace
Telling employees where and why cameras are being used in the workplace is the best way to avoid legal problems, according to Lisa Guerin, co-author of "The Essential Guide to Federal Employment Laws" (Society for Human Resource Management/Nolo, 2011).
There is implied consent if an employee continues to work in an area where a camera is visible, said Ginger McCall, director of the open government program at the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C.
But David Gevertz, an attorney with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC in Atlanta, cautioned that “while employers may argue that their employees have implicitly consented to surveillance by continuing to work in areas with visible cameras, the better course of action is to provide formal notice of these cameras.” He remarked that “notice is typically found to be reasonable via obvious signage, stand-alone policies, signed authorization, inclusion in an employee handbook, or where it accompanies a paycheck or pay stub.”
Employers are best served by installing cameras in places where they can claim they will be used to prevent, detect and investigate theft, on-the-job misbehavior such as drinking or smoking, and unsafe working conditions, Gevertz noted. These places include storage areas, loading docks, parking lots and areas immediately inside and outside of external doors, and public or common areas other than employee lounges.
Employers in at least 13 states are prohibited from placing cameras in bathrooms, locker rooms or changing areas, and in areas where employees are allowed to sleep or rest, Gevertz stated. Even if there is concern about employees smoking in bathrooms, employers don’t have the right to install cameras there, remarked Anthony Oncidi, an attorney with Proskauer Rose in Los Angeles.
And the California Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that employers may not install hidden video cameras in an employee’s office absent notice (Hernandez v. Hillsides Inc., No. S147552), Gevertz added.
If a video is going to be used as the basis for disciplinary action, give employees the opportunity to review the video and explain their behavior, Gevertz recommended.
If a camera captures criminal behavior, such as drug dealing, the employer should consult with a lawyer about whether to involve law enforcement, Guerin added.
Less dramatically, filming may reveal problems employees are having, such as confusion about how to handle merchandise returns or how to respond to customer complaints, Guerin noted. “Or it might show that employees are bending the rules in small ways—taking breaks that are too long or making personal calls on work time, for example. In this situation, the employer might want to do some training or otherwise remind employees of its expectations.”
Cameras are effective tools for identifying safety lapses or the causes of accidents in manufacturing settings, Gevertz noted. Cameras are “particularly adept at investigating theft or unauthorized access of company property,” he remarked.
“Employers who want to install cameras must also keep the union in mind. This may be an issue that the employer is required to bargain under an existing collective bargaining agreement,” Guerin noted. “Also, it is an unfair labor practice for an employer to conduct surveillance of union meetings or organizing efforts.”
Gevertz said unionized employers are typically required to inform the union only of an intent to use hidden cameras, but not the cameras’ locations.
Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at ToolkitHR.com, powered by HCN and SHRM.
Allen Smith, J.D., is manager, workplace law content, for SHRM.
Irwin brings ‘toughness’ message to new level
Irwin Tools, the division of Newell Rubbermaid, has developed the new 2500 Series of levels featuring a new frame design that the company says stands up to twisting, dropping and general jobsite abuse.
Irwin guarantee’s vial accuracy for the life of the product.
"Finally, there is a level as tough as the professional tradesman," said Curt Rahilly, VP of marketing for Newell Rubbermaid’s Construction Tools & Accessories global business unit. "We’ve engineered Irwin levels to meet a new standard of excellence with features that improve productivity and performance on the jobsite and provide the durability needed to maintain accuracy over time.”
Irwin levels address previously unmet user needs including vial readability with Plumb Site technology for dual-sided, undistorted viewing, making plumb readings easier and more accurate in the tight spots common to many work environments. Irwin levels also enable tradesmen to level and scribe flush into corners with a variety of proprietary features including removable and retractable end cap designs and feature a continuous edge over the center vial for added durability.
Irwin is supporting the 2500 Series levels launch with a marketing campaign designed to drive professional users to local retailers. A national radio campaign will run on sports radio stations during basketball and football season and will tag local retailers regionally. In-store "trade-in and trade-up" programs will encourage tradesmen to trade in their existing level for up to $20 off a new Irwin level.
The powerful new lineup of Irwin levels includes box beam, I-beam, torpedo and multiple specialty levels, as well as a full range of utility levels and squares. Irwin levels are now available at hardware stores and industrial tool distributors throughout the U.S. and Canada with suggested retail prices ranging from $29.99 to $309.99. The new program will be introduced in Latin America and Europe in 2013.
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After 20 years, it’s easier to be green
In 1992, Energy Star was launched as the first national, market-driven energy efficiency partnership program of its kind. If EPA’s estimates are to be believed, the effort has worked wonders. According to the EPA, Energy Star has helped save Americans $23 billion on their energy bills while preventing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the annual emissions of 41 million vehicles.
Today, more than 1.3 million new homes and nearly 16,500 buildings have earned EPA’s Energy Star certification. Moreover, the Energy Star label can be found on more than 60 different kinds of products with more than 5 billion sold over the past 20 years.
According to Ann Bailey, director of Energy Star Product Labeling for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one of the strengths of the Energy Star brand is that “regardless of which message resonates with consumers, Energy Star homes are both cost- and energy-effective.”
She said that consumers may pay a little more upfront for a more energy-efficient product, but they will recover their investment through energy cost-savings over time.
Bailey said the green movement has helped raised awareness among consumers and businesses about the value of sustainable products and practices. “This has allowed the Energy Star program to push markets to adopt more energy-efficient practices and products,” she said. “Energy Star has become a leading source of information for consumers looking for energy-efficient products, homes and buildings. All products, homes and buildings that bear the mark have been certified by a third party as meeting the program’s strict requirements.”
Energy Star counts more than 1,700 retail “partners” who have helped spread the word about energy-efficient products so consumers can make informed decisions about cost-effective ways to save energy.
Products can earn the Energy Star label by meeting the energy efficiency requirements set forth in Energy Star product specifications, which are based on the following principles:
• Product categories must contribute significant energy savings nationwide.
• Qualified products must deliver the features and performance demanded by consumers, in addition to increased energy efficiency.
• If the qualified product costs more than a conventional, less-efficient counterpart, purchasers will recover their investment in increased energy efficiency through utility bill savings, within a reasonable period of time.
• Energy efficiency can be achieved through broadly available, non-proprietary technologies offered by more than one manufacturer.
• Product energy consumption and performance can be measured and verified with testing.
• Labeling would effectively differentiate products and be visible for purchasers.
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