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  • Arye Schreiber

CCTV in the Workplace


DISCLAIMER: SEE AT THE END OF THIS BLOG.... Dr Ludmila Leshziner was working as a physician in an old-age home, when the administration installed a surveillance camera overlooking her office space ostensibly to prevent recurring thefts. She subsequently resigned, claiming severance because the camera was a material deterioration in her employment conditions. Broadly speaking, the court noted that her desk was her private work space, it was not where she received patients, and the camera’s installation and operation violated her space (see also the Malul case).

Following a number of cases, including the ones noted above, as well as an extensive ruling on workplace privacy (the Isakov case) and its own previous guidelines on the subject (Guideline 4, 2012), the Israeli Privacy Protection Authority recently published its guidance on the use of surveillance cameras in the workplace generally, and in the context of an employment relationship in particular. The IPPA emphasizes that in the employer-employee environment stricter protection of privacy measures should be implemented than are generally accepted.

In the current labor market, where employees spend most of the day in the workplace, the effect of regular surveillance by the employer is magnified. A CCTV camera placed in the workplace is able to document in a comprehensive and continuous manner the overall behavior of the worker during the working day, and not just his professional activity. The collected data may include particularly sensitive and comprehensive information, and may seriously impair the privacy of the employees without giving them the ability to significantly influence the location of the cameras or the manner in which they are operated.

Employers using cameras to monitor employees are subject to the obligations of reasonableness, proportionality, good faith and fairness. The employer is permitted to use the cameras only for legitimate purposes relevant to the workplace, and only to an extent that is not excessive. Excessive and disproportionate use of cameras to track employees puts the employer at risk of administrative and criminal sanctions and exposure to civil claims.

The duties that apply to an employer using surveillance cameras:

1. The employer must formulate a clear privacy policy regarding the manner and extent of use of surveillance cameras and their goals, and present them transparently to employees.

2. The recordings may not be used for purposes beyond the predetermined purpose of the installation of the camera unless to fulfill a legal duty. Thus, recordings from a camera installed for security purposes, for example, cannot be used by the employer for disciplinary purposes such as documenting the duration of the employee's breaks.

3. The installation of cameras can only be done for a legitimate purpose, which is essential for realizing the employer's interest or the public interest and is consistent with its business or organizational purpose. For example, the installation of cameras in a workplace may be legitimate for the purpose of protecting the security of the workplace - such as sheltering and caring for kindergartens or nursing homes, to protect property, to guard the security of sensitive personal data etc. The interests invoked will govern the scope and format of the photography permitted and the areas where the cameras can be installed.

4. In areas where the employee has the right to a private space, it is forbidden to photograph the employee without his knowledge and to install hidden cameras.

The extent to which the employee's privacy is affected, will vary depending on the location of the installation - such as employee's personal work place, to rest areas, more public areas and areas open to public reception. The legitimacy of the installation in a given area is influenced by the employee's reasonable expectation of privacy in this area. For Example:

· Bathrooms or wardrobes: photography in these areas constitutes a serious harm, and there is unlikely to ever be an organizational interest that justifies it.

· Personal office or workstation: this could be justified only for achieving a goal of actual public importance, or where the benefit to the employer will significantly exceed the harm to the employee's privacy, and in any event must be predicated on the employee's knowledge and consent.

· Shared offices or rotating workplaces: here too the worker has an expectation of privacy.

· Rest areas, such as a kitchenette or dining room as well as in any other area that is not the site of the work and is not open to the clientele: the employee's expectation of privacy is high and the right to film the space is justified only for the most essential purposes, and in a limited format.

· Corridors, entrance entrances and public areas - the use of cameras for legitimate purposes is more reasonable, provided that it is carried out with proportionality and with proper knowledge of the workers.

In summary: the exact location of the camera, and its purpose, as well as the quality and format of the coverage will all be important in assessing the legality of CCTV installations in the workplace.

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE, THESE ARE OUR MUSINGS, BASED ON OUR EXPERIENCE WITH OUR CLIENTS AND COLLEAGUES, AND WERE ORIGINALLY SHARED OR WRITTEN IN A VERY SPECIFIC CONTEXT. YOU CAN DRAW INSPIRATION, AND TELL US IF YOU HAVE INTERESTING COMMENTS, BUT WE HAVE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR THESE OPINIONS VIS-A-VIS OUR READERS.

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