What You Should Know Before Monitoring Your Employees and Guests

By Lonnie Giamela Partner, Fisher & Phillips, LLP | October 19, 2014

Co-authored by John Marvos, Attorney-at-Law, Fisher & Phillips

Employees can make or break businesses in the service industry. While customer service oriented employees create a luxurious experience at a lesser establishment, employees that don't prioritize customer service can ruin a guest's experience even at the most finely-appointed hotel.

However, managers and supervisors cannot always be present to recognize and reward desirable service practices, nor can they always be present identify and correct poor practices. With so many points of customer and employee interaction, surveillance is one of the most effective methods to safeguard employee safety and integrity, review employee performance, identify training points, and document "HR issues." Of course, too much of a good thing can be a problem.

Employers must understand the difference between valid surveillance and illegal intrusions on privacy rights before taking advantage of video/audio recordings. This article aims to help employers stay on the right side of that fence.

1. What is a "Reasonable Expectation of Privacy"?

The law regarding privacy in the workplace was most recently defined by the California Supreme Court case in Hernandez v. Hillsides, Inc. The rule is subjective, yet straightforward-employers must not engage in any activities that would violate an employee's "reasonable expectation of privacy." This helps determine the degree to which a person can reasonably expect to be left unmonitored, but the problem is that it is a nebulous standard that relies on "widely accepted community norms."

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