Can Hospitals Conduct Video Surveillance Without Notifying Staff?

Carolyn Buppert, NP, JD

Disclosures

June 29, 2012

Question

At my workplace, steps have been taken to prevent narcotic drug diversion. One plan we discussed was video surveillance. Do staff members have a right to know if and when it is initiated?

Response from Carolyn Buppert, NP, JD
Attorney, Law Office of Carolyn Buppert P.C., Bethesda, Maryland

The only settings where courts or legislatures have found that employees have the right to know that they are under electronic surveillance are places where the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy. In the workplace, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, except in bathrooms and locker rooms. To prove invasion of privacy, a plaintiff would need to prove that there was an intrusion, that the intrusion was intentional, that the individual had a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to the matter intruded upon, and that the intrusion was highly offensive to a reasonable person.[1]

Some employers use video monitoring to deter theft, identify trespassers, oversee security of cars and employees in a garage, and determine whether employees are doing their jobs. Federal law does not require that employees consent to such monitoring, and the employer need not notify employees that they are being monitored. However, courts have upheld an employee's right to privacy in locker rooms and bathrooms, and employers may not put video monitors in those areas. Some states may have laws that restrict where, how, and why an employer may videotape employees.

An employee would not reasonably expect privacy in a medication room. If the taping were to take place in a patient's room, it would be the patient who had the reasonable expectation of privacy.

I see no legal reason why a facility or hospital could not place a video monitor in locations where nurses, pharmacists, physicians, and other staff are handling or preparing medications. It would be considerate, however, to let employees know they are being monitored.

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