Need more information about workplace privacy rights? Surveillance systems, such as surveillance cameras, are found in many workplaces across Canada. Though surveillance systems can help employees and workers stay safe, they can also be a cause for concern. It is important for everyone involved to know Ontario’s workplace privacy rights and laws. This article will outline everything you need to know about workplace privacy rights for managers, contractors, and employees alike. It is especially important for business owners to understand workplace privacy rights in order to avoid legal consequences. If you have any questions about workplace safety, don’t hesitate to contact the security professionals at Jay360 today!
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Workplace Privacy Rights – Managers & Business Owners
It is important that managers know and understand their employee’s workplace privacy rights. This will help keep both managers and their employees safe. Business owners should ensure that employee information is stored safely and that only relevant and required personal information is collected. Failure to ensure the security of your employees’ personal information remains personal can result in serious consequences and even lawsuits.
Surveillance cameras are becoming more and more common in the workplace. Business owners and/or managers should install easily readable signs informing employees and the public that they are under surveillance (source). In Canada, surveillance cameras in the workplace are not allowed to have an audio component. Recording private conversations without consent is a criminal offense.
Managers may also wonder what exactly they can use captured surveillance footage for. You can only use captured video surveillance footage for its intended purpose. In most workplaces, this purpose is preventing or catching criminal activity. According to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario – Guidelines for the Use of Video Surveillance,
“institutions may only use personal information collected by means of video surveillance for the purpose of the video surveillance program or for a consistent purpose.”
Like surveillance cameras, recording of personal information can also be a sensitive spot in the workplace. Employers need some personal information from their employees, such as Social Insurance Numbers, addresses, email addresses, and other information for things such as benefits or pay. However, private information must be kept secure. Managers must respect employees’ workplace privacy rights. Under the Ontario Employment Standards Act (ESA), certain information collected from the employee is legally required to be kept secure. Some of this information includes:
- Hours an employee has worked
- Employee’s name and address
- Date of hire
- Date of termination
- Vacation pay
- And more
Employers should ensure that only authorized staff have access to employee records. The ESA provides general guidelines to ensure that personal employee information is only seen by those who need to see it. Some of these guidelines include taking precautions when storing employee information, not disclosing employee information to anyone without the employee’s permission, and only allowing authorized staff to access records (source).
Workplace Privacy Rights – Employees
When it comes to surveillance cameras, your workplace privacy rights may depend upon whether you are part of a union or not. Some unions prohibit an employer’s use of video surveillance if used for the purpose of monitoring employees. If a union dispute occurs, a labour arbitrator rather than the courts will decide whether or not to view employer’s video footage. In a non-unionized workplace, employees have a general right t0 privacy unless otherwise stated or waived (source). Your employer should make it clear if there are cameras in your workplace.
Surveillance systems and the collection of personal information can make employees feel uncomfortable in the workplace. It is important that managers explain to their employees how records will be stored or surveillance footage will be used if an employee expresses concern.
Knowing employee privacy rights can also help employees feel more comfortable in the workplace. However, there are some ‘gaps‘ in the current workplace privacy legislation. In some cases, a certain privacy concern may not fall under any provincial law. In a case like that, employees may have to refer to their workplace contract rather than provincial or federal legislation.
Still, there are rules and rights regarding employee privacy rights. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada outlines many ways to respect employee privacy. Some of these include:
- Employees should be knowledgeable and consent to the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information
- Employees should be able to access their personal information and challenge the accuracy of it
- Employees should know why personal information is being collected and what their employer will do with it
- And more
Workplace Privacy Rights – Contractors
When hiring a self-employed contractor, it is extremely important that you find out if the relationship between you and the contractor will be considered employer-employee or that of a business to a self-employed contractor (source). This is important as the type of relationship will determine the applicable employment rules and regulations.
If you hire a contractor and have a surveillance camera on your property, ensure your camera is not breaking any potential surveillance camera bylaws that may be in effect in your region. Since surveillance camera laws in most areas are not absolute, it may be a good idea to read through an article like Do Employers Have a Right To Spy On Their Workers in order to get a better understanding of surveillance camera and contractor privacy rights.
As an employer of a contractor, you have the same responsibilities as any other employer does with their workers. Employers must ensure that employee’s personal information is protected. Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) helps businesses gain the proper understanding of their own obligations and how to comply with regulations (source).
How To Resolve Workplace Privacy Issues
There are a few ways to resolve privacy issues in the workplace. Privacy laws surrounding surveillance in the workplace are not always clear and vary depending on the type of workplace. For example, if you have a privacy concern and are part of a union, the concern will be looked at by a union arbitrator instead of the court. If you file a complaint in a non-unionized workplace, your contract and legislation will be looked at. If the issue cannot be resolved, the issue would then be brought to an administrative tribunal or to court (source).
Many workers feel uncomfortable about the use of surveillance cameras in their workplace. Some workers even worry that their managers or supervisors are actually spying on them at work. Remember that most business owners will install security cameras to protect their workers. However, if you feel uncomfortable, you should bring it up with your employer and see if there is a security camera policy in place.
If you have a privacy concern, try your best to work it out with your employer. They may be unaware of the issue or are not up to date on the most recent legislation. It is always good to try to solve a problem right away before it gets out of hand.
Surveillance Camera Bylaws
Some cities and regions in Ontario have surveillance camera Bylaws. These Bylaws regulate how cameras are used and where they can be pointed at. See the list below for current surveillance camera Bylaws in Ontario.
- City of Hamilton – Surveillance Camera Bylaws
- City of Burlington – Bylaw Number 108-2002
- Town of Halton Hills – Bylaw 2003-0079
- Town of Milton – Bylaw Number 30-2003
Does Your Region Have Camera Bylaws? Find Out Now!
Contact The Security Experts At Jay360 Today!
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