may negotiate limitations on video recordings of unionized workers. In 1997, the
National Labor Relations Board ruled that surveillance was subject to mandatory bargaining,
meaning a union must agree to any monitoring of unionized workers. This includes the use of hidden
cameras. Read the National Labor Relations Board
on this case. Union
members should speak with a union representative if they have concerns about workplace video
What about video cameras that include audio surveillance?
Video cameras that also capture audio recordings may be subject to laws relating to audio recording,
including wiretap and eavesdropping laws.
Federal law does not prohibit audio recording of phone conversations as long as one party on the
call consents to recording. Most states have extended this law to include recording in-person
conversations. Twelve states have laws that require that all parties in a conversation consent to
audio recording. For a state-specific guideline of laws regarding audio recording, visit
Tape? A Practical Guide to Taping Phone Calls and In-Person Conversation in the 50 States and
. (The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press).
6. Workplace Privacy Protections
What about my employer's promises regarding e-mail and other workplace privacy issues.
Are they legally binding?
Not necessarily. Usually, when an employer states a policy regarding any issue in the workplace,
including privacy issues, that policy is legally binding. Policies can be communicated in various
ways: through employee handbooks, via memos, and in union contracts. For example, if an
employer explicitly states that employees will be notified when telephone monitoring takes place, the
employer generally must honor that policy. There are usually exceptions for investigations of wrong-
doing. If you are not already aware of your employer's workplace privacy policies, it is a good idea to
In Smyth v. Pillsbury, the employee's termination was upheld by the court, even though the company
had a policy of allowing e-mail use for personal communications. In this case, the employee had
sent messages to co-workers that were deemed highly inappropriate for workplace communications.
(Smyth v. Pillsbury, C.A. NO. 95-5712, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania,
Jan.18, 1996, Decided, Jan. 23, 1996, Filed.
Are there any laws that deal with workplace privacy?
Currently there are very few laws regulating employee monitoring. If you are concerned about this
issue, contact your federal legislators, especially the members of the House and Senate Labor
committees in Congress. (See PRC Fact Sheet 18 "Privacy in