Are Hidden Cameras Legal in the Workplace Ontario
In Canada, surveillance cameras can only be used to record video communications, not audio communications. To deter theft, vandalism, assault and sexual harassment, surveillance cameras can be approved. In grocery stores, banks, factories, retail stores or restaurants where money and inventory are stored, cameras have a reasonable purpose. In addition, there may not be a reasonable expectation of privacy for employees who work in publicly accessible locations, such as at a company reception. The law is less tolerant of audio recordings. In general, private conversations cannot be recorded. Employers who record conversations without the permission of at least one participant are in violation of section 184 of the Criminal Code. To avoid this risk, the audio recording option of security cameras should be disabled. In Colwell v. Cornerstone Properties Inc., Ms. Colwell filed a constructive dismissal lawsuit after her employer installed a secret hidden camera in her private office. The court did not explicitly consider whether video cameras are allowed in the office, but rather found that the placement of the hidden cameras and subsequent lies violated the implied contractual condition of employment, that “each party would treat the other in good faith and fairly” and poisoned the work environment.
Subsequently, the courts found that “placing a video camera in an employee`s office without his or her knowledge constitutes a serious and intrusive violation of the employee`s privacy.” The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act of Canada (PIPEDA) is administered by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and is the only workplace privacy law in Ontario. There are no provincial laws that specifically address workplace supervision. Hilary Page brings a diverse legal education to her labour law practice. She began her career in the summer at a trial shop in downtown Toronto, then wrote in-house in a community where she developed an interest in labour and human rights laws. Talk to our HR experts about best practices for employers when it comes to workplace monitoring. We can help you determine if surveillance is right for your business and advise you on the most compliant investment cameras. Learn more about your employer`s obligations today: 1 (833) 247-3652. A legitimate purpose may be to ensure the safety of customers and employees, to reduce or deter illegal behavior, or to reduce the risk of legal liability. Data protection in the workplace is an evolving and somewhat convoluted area of law. In Ontario, our most important labour rights laws, the Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, remain silent on the issue of privacy. But surveillance is ubiquitous.
Employers often have cameras in the workplace that end up providing them with information about their employees, whether they are looking for them or not. Employers and employees often wonder if this is legal. Many surveillance cameras are capable of capturing not only images, but also sound. The recording of private communications without the consent of speakers or without legal authorization, such as an arrest warrant issued by a judge to the police, is a criminal offence. A central aspect of this area of law is the expectation of the privacy of those involved in the conversation. If there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, permission or legal authorization to record or eavesdrop on conversations using electronic devices must be obtained. Video cameras can be used in Ontario workplaces to record video, but not audio, as long as there is a real purpose and employees are informed. Employers should post and share with their employees a video surveillance policy that includes policies and procedures for the collection, use and disclosure of information obtained through video surveillance, and the posting of signs to eliminate any reasonable expectation of privacy. The first thing an employer should consider when considering installing a camera to monitor a workplace is the goal. In general, there should be a good reason to conduct monitoring. For example, is there a reasonable suspicion that someone is stealing? Are there any security issues? Video surveillance raises interesting labour law issues for both employees and employers.
While video cameras are common in retail stores, banks, manufacturing facilities, and casinos, what about an office environment? Or in a break room? Does an employer have to inform its employees about surveillance cameras or can they be hidden? Labour Minister Monte McNaugton said in February. 24, before the end of the month, it will propose amendments to the Employment Standards Act that would give workers a legal right to know whether their company is monitoring their electronic devices, including computers, mobile phones and GPS systems. The use of surveillance cameras in the workplace is widespread in Canada. Surveillance cameras are often installed to deter theft, vandalism, assault and sexual harassment. Hidden cameras are also used to secretly record suspected criminal or inappropriate activities. Video surveillance is common in retail stores, financial institutions, manufacturing facilities, casinos and wherever money or inventory is found. In many cases, employers now use hidden and even exposed surveillance cameras to regularly record work activities. Does the employer have this right? In general, Canadian courts have not positively evaluated employers who install security cameras to spy on employees without a valid reason. A licensed private investigator can provide advice and assistance with workplace surveillance and other investigative services. PIPEDA monitors the collection, use and disclosure of personal data in private sector organizations.
Under this legislation, employers are allowed to record videos in the workplace if the circumstances are appropriate and employees have been informed. In criminal cases, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been used to protect the privacy of workers in non-unionized entities. A worker who was “filmed” and committed a crime could argue in the criminal proceedings that, in the circumstances (e.g., in the workplace washrooms), there was a reasonable expectation of privacy and that the right to privacy had been violated in order to “bring the administration of justice into disrepute.” From financial institutions to factories, video surveillance is common in many workplaces. It is especially common in places where there is stock or money. Deterrence of harassment, theft and vandalism are just some of the reasons an employer wants to monitor their employees. However, the Canadian justice system has not been particularly tolerant of employers who monitor their employees by video without good faith or reason. Well-defined work policies should be your first defence against employee misconduct. Video surveillance in the workplace should be the last option. Before installing cameras, it is also worth looking for less invasive ways to monitor suspected criminal activity, harassment or violence. Video surveillance should only be considered when other means of deterring suspected or known inappropriate behaviour have been exhausted. Unionized workers should consider in their collective agreement whether it prohibits the use of video surveillance by management to monitor workers. In one unionized company, video surveillance was successfully used to monitor employee performance and investigate workers suspected of criminal activity.
When unions mourn the loss of employer-sanctioned workers, management often cites videotapes as evidence. Recordings are used to prove that disciplinary action was warranted because the employee violated a workplace rule or regulation, participated in conduct that violated the collective agreement, or committed a criminal offence. Workplaces have always monitored workers, but new and evolving technologies have enabled increasingly intrusive surveillance, from keystrokes to eye movements in front of a screen, from location tracking with GPS in trucks to tracking with company phones in pockets. And with the expansion of surveillance tools, the ability to unfold invisibly behind the scenes of the interfaces we use on a daily basis has also expanded. Remote work, as many people have done during the pandemic, has increased workplace interest in this tracking and people`s vulnerability to it as the boundaries between home and work become blurred. Publications made on this website are for general introductory information purposes only. They do not constitute legal or professional advice or statements of any kind. Talk to a professional before making decisions about your own particular situation.
Many external factors, such as organizing a workplace, can also help determine whether video surveillance in a workplace is legal and legitimate.