Baltimore, MD asked in Employment Law and Business Law for Maryland

Q: My boss has a camera in my office I did not know about. Is this legal?

We have many 24 hour security cameras at my workplace in most of the rooms and offices. Some are only visual and others also record audio. All are placed in various corners of ceilings so we are aware our boss can monitor us. My office is one of the few that does not have a camera in the room. 

There is an empty desk behind me that is used for training purposes for new hires. The other day, someone went to borrow the chair at the empty desk and discovered a camera under the desk on the floor facing outward towards me. I have no idea how long it has been there since the desk has been unused for a couple months and don’t think I’d ever notice this had the chair not been moved. Im assuming it records audio but even though it’s back up against the wall underneath ,I have no idea if the angling sees upward, like if you can see up someone’s clothing if they are close or walk by. 

Is this legal?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: Sounds like it is time to start looking for employment elsewhere rather than continuing to work in this creepy, untrustworthy surveillance atmosphere. The employer either shows zero faith or trust in his employees' honesty or is some kind of pathetic voyeur. Surveillance makes sense for operations involving the handling of cash, registers, and security when interacting with members of the public (like retail establishments). Spying on your own employees at their desks or in their offices is another thing. It is illegal to record audio of any person's oral communications with another without that person's express agreement. ANY surveillance must serve a legitimate business related purpose (like monitoring and insuring customer service over company telephone lines and company email). Employees have a right to privacy. An employer may have non-audio recording video in the workplace if it is for a legitimate business purpose. The camera you describe cannot reasonably be argued to serve any legitimate legal business purpose. Contact an employment law atorney to evaluate whether you have a monetary claim or need to file a complaint or take other action to protect yourself and your rights. Document (with photos) the camera and its location within your office, and what it is pointed at, before taking action, or you can be sure it will be removed and denied that it was there or that the employer placed it there. If the camera is of the same type/manufacture as other cameras known to have been placed by the employer in the office, then that certainly suggests it came from the same employer.

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