Video surveillance: Who's watching you?

Video surveillance: Who's watching you?

Sep 01, 2009

Sheila Grosdidier
The inventory is off by 30 boxes. Accusations start to fly. Team members exchange surreptitious looks and suggest words like investigation, theft, and distrust. Allegations follow and suddenly there's serious suspicion—and team chaos.

You wonder how the practice will prove who's guilty and who's innocent. If only someone had caught the crime on tape. These days, it's increasingly possible that your practice did.

According to the American Management Association, more than 50 percent of businesses utilize some type of employee monitoring, including video surveillance. More and more veterinary practices are installing surveillance systems to protect their buildings, equipment, drugs and other inventory, and their employees' physical safety. Some specific examples of the reasons practices give for installing cameras include to:

  • Monitor the parking lot for suspicious activity
  • Minimize theft by the public and employees
  • Watch for employee alcohol and drug use
  • Keep an eye on employee attendance problems, such as team members leaving early and coming in late
  • Observe team members with patients
  • Catch unsafe working conditions
  • Provide clear evidence of a crime if one were to occur
  • Train team members by showing them the tapes to find areas of improvement

Melissa Galitz
While all these reasons make sense and, ultimately, benefit the practice, the idea of being filmed makes many team members uneasy. This is especially true if you don't understand when surveillance is acceptable.

Know your rights

First off, if you're completing your work and following your practice's policies and procedures, you don't need to fear being filmed at work. Also, if you're being videotaped, you'll probably know it. Most clinics inform their team members about any monitoring and develop related policies. However, most states don't require employers to provide such notification.

Federal wiretap laws—and many state laws—prohibit audiotaping employees. Silent videotaping, though, is often legal. But there are limits. For example, if a certain area of the practice carries an expectation of privacy, such as bathrooms or changing areas, it's likely that even silent surveillance is illegal. In some states, like Connecticut, management can't even install a camera in the employee lounge because that space is considered private.

When thinking about your own practice's surveillance and its fairness to you and your fellow team members, consider whether the cameras are hidden or in full view, whether they're in public and business areas or private rooms, and whether sound is included. If you're concerned the taping is invading your privacy, speak with the practice manager or owner. As a last resort, some employees seek legal advice if conversations with management prove unsuccessful.