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Surveillance Cameras In The Workplace Laws in Canada: All You Need To Know

Surveillance cameras in the workplace laws in Canada are in place to protect both employers and employees, whether it be from theft, vandalism, assault and sexual harassment or other criminal activities. Business owners have the right to install them, but respecting privacy in the workplace is also necessary.

The security professionals at Jay360 can offer sound advice on how to navigate surveillance cameras in the workplace laws in Canada, and set you up with all you need to make sure your business is safe and secure.

 

Surveillance Cameras In The Workplace Laws in Canada – All You Need To Know

We all expect to have some privacy at work, but at the same time, it’s normal that working for someone will mean giving up some privacy. Employers need basic information about their employees for things like pay and benefits, and they have to be able to ensure that work is being done efficiently and safely.

The use of surveillance cameras in the workplace is very common in Canada these days, and everyone involved must be made aware of the laws in Canada in place to protect both sides.

As outlined by The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, “Employers can balance their ‘need to know’ with their employees’ right to privacy, if they ensure that they collect, use, and disclose personal information about their employees for appropriate purposes only.”

Responsibilities Of Employer

An employer’s need for information should be balanced with an employee’s right to privacy, according to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. For almost all personal information, the following basic rules help to establish and maintain that balance in regards to surveillance cameras in the workplace laws in Canada:

  • The employer should say what personal information it collects from employees, why it collects it, and what it does with it.
  • Collection, use, or disclosure of personal information should normally be done only with an employee’s knowledge and consent.
  • The employer should only collect personal information that’s necessary for its stated purpose, and collect it by fair and lawful means.
  • The employer should normally use or disclose personal information only for the purposes that it collected it for, and keep it only as long as it’s needed for those purposes, unless it has the employee’s consent to do something else with it, or is legally required to use or disclose it for other purposes.
  • Employees’ personal information needs to be accurate, complete, and up-to-date.
  • Employees should be able to access their personal information, and be able to challenge the accuracy and completeness of it.

There are, however, some differences in the way this all works between non-unionized and unionized workplaces.

surveillance cameras in the workplace laws in Canada

Surveillance In Non-Unionized Workplace

In the non-unionized workplace, employees enjoy a general right to privacy unless they give it up in their employment contract or otherwise waive the right expressly, according to Legal Line.

Further to that:

Surveillance may infringe upon an employee’s right to privacy if cameras are installed only to monitor the general conduct, behaviour or efficiency of a specific employee or group of employees. If, however, the camera is installed as an investigative aid for a specific time to monitor an area for suspected criminal activity, the surveillance is likely justified. The key question is often whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

An employer, therefore, would likely not be allowed to target particular workers without cause, but may be able to target general areas in the non-unionized workplace with surveillance.

Ultimately, any disputes in the area of surveillance cameras in the workplace laws in Canada would be settled in civil court.

Surveillance In Unionized Workplace

Legal Line suggests unionized employees should look to their collective agreement to see if it prohibits management’s use of video surveillance to observe workers.

In a unionized workplace, video surveillance has been used successfully to monitor employees’ performance and investigate workers suspected of criminal activity. When unions grieve for workers disciplined by the employer, management will often tender videotapes as evidence. The tapes are used to prove discipline was justified because the employee broke a workplace rule or regulation, engaged in behaviour that violated the collective agreement or committed a criminal act.

When a union is involved, the issue is resolved by a labour arbitrator, and not the civil courts. The following is taken into account when rendering a decision:

  1. Was it reasonable, in all of the circumstances, for management to request video surveillance of the worker?
  2. Was the surveillance conducted in a reasonable manner?
  3. Were other alternatives open to management to obtain the evidence it sought?

Generally, if the first two questions are answered “yes” and the third is answered “no,” then the surveillance videotape will probably be used.

surveillance cameras in the workplace laws in Canada

Case Study

A recent article in the Globe and Mail stated, “If there is a problem with theft or security and the camera is trained on a specific location, it is not illegal. Employers retain the right to monitor their staff in some situations, but only if this is done in good faith and where there is a reasonable belief that an offence is being committed.”

So what of there is no good reason for a surveillance camera in the workplace? Consider the following case:

“Colleen Colwell confronted this legal issue when her boss secretly installed a hidden camera in the ceiling of her private office at her workplace in London, Ont., when he suspected the maintenance staff she supervised of stealing. When Ms. Colwell learned there was a camera watching her, she quit her job alleging ‘constructive dismissal,’ sued and eventually won her lawsuit when her employer admitted that she was not suspected of theft herself.

“However, the Ontario Superior Court grappled in 2008 with how to award her damages. Ms. Colwell did not technically have a right to privacy, so spying on her did not violate any legal right. But employers do have an obligation to treat their employees in good faith, explained the judge in siding with Ms. Colwell. The presence of the camera in Ms. Colwell’s office without her knowledge, consent or even a good reason amounted to a poisoned workplace, and on that basis she was awarded damages for constructive dismissal.” (via Globe and Mail)

Context is important when it comes to surveillance cameras in the workplace laws in Canada, but thus gives us an idea of what is permissible and what’s overstepping the lines of privacy and respectability.

Surveillance Cameras In The Workplace Require Clear Policies and Expectations

In summary, when it comes to surveillance cameras in the workplace laws in Canada, employers should – at a minimum – tell their employees what personal information will be collected, used, and disclosed.

Additionally, business owners who want video surveillance in a general area should post notices and signs in conspicuous places that are easily readable, and in both English and French. The purpose of the signage is to remove any reasonable expectation of privacy.

When it comes to hidden and even openly disclosed surveillance cameras to routinely record job activities, Canadian courts have generally not looked favourably on employers who install surveillance cameras to spy on employees without good reason.

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Jay360 Has You Covered

There are many more factors to consider when designing and installing a surveillance system. Jay 360 continues to help clients ensure their premise security, looking at all the different angles to provide you with peace of mind and comfort.

You can rely on the knowledge and experience of Jay 360 to provide you with the best home security solutions. We will recommend only the security products that meet your specific needs and budget.

Call on Jay360 to help you to plan the ideal security camera system to suit you and your needs, all at the very best value.

Read more from the Ultimate Guide to Surveillance Cameras:

This series helps you choose and set up the best camera system for your next surveillance project: offering insights and direction to those wishing to secure their home and small business premises.

Sources:
https://www.legalline.ca/legal-answers/cameras-and-audio-tapes-in-the-workplace/
https://www.priv.gc.ca/en/privacy-topics/privacy-at-work/02_05_d_17/
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/career-advice/experts/do-employers-have-a-right-to-spy-on-workers/article5104037/

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