Hidden Camera Didn’t Violate Workers’ Privacy

     (CN) – A home for abused children did not violate its employees’ rights by installing a camera to catch someone using its computers after hours to view pornography, the California Supreme Court ruled.

     Abigail Hernandez and Maria-Jose Lopez sued Hillside Children’s Center after discovering a hidden camera in their work station.
     John Hitchcock, the director of the center, installed the camera to catch the person who was viewing the pornography. He did not operate the camera during business hours and did not target the plaintiffs.
     The trial court dismissed the case, but the appeals court ruled that the defendants had breached their employees’ privacy.
     On further appeal, the state high court ruled that it was not difficult to find a privacy issue in this case.
     “While plaintiffs’ privacy interests in a shared office at work were far from absolute, they had a reasonable expectation under widely held social norms that their employer would not install video equipment capable of monitoring and recording their activities – personal and work-related – behind closed doors without their knowledge or consent,” Justice Baxter wrote.
     However, the state Supreme Court determined that the case should not have gone to trial, based on the center’s mission to protect children.
     “Any actual surveillance was drastically limited in nature and scope, exempting plaintiffs from its reach. Defendants were also motivated by strong countervailing concerns,” Baxter wrote.

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