43

Location is Washington state, USA.

I've been at this company for less than a week and I hardly know everyone yet. I had to go to IT today to get some stuff set up and the sysadmin had all the security cameras in a 4x4 grid on a TV. While he was working on my laptop, I noticed that two cameras show the mens and womens restrooms. They're on the ceiling overlooking the stalls so you can see into them. I didn't say anything about them at the time because I'm not sure what to do. I went back and found the camera in the mens' room, it's inside an air vent so it's very hard to notice, while none of the other cameras outside are hidden.

I'm not sure if this is known by the whole company and it's just accepted, or if it's legal at all. I'm definitely not going to work for a company that does this. I'm trying to decide if I should:

  1. Go to the sysadmin and ask him about it.
  2. Go to my manager and tell him, in case these aren't actually approved.
  3. Leave the company. I'm not worried about finding another job, and if I did this I'd email my whole department and let them know, then walk out.
  4. Alert some legal authority.

Does anyone have any advice for the best way to handle this?

  • 2
    This probably isn't a major factor in what you should do, but are the bathroom cameras clearly visible to people actually in the bathrooms? If they are concealed, that's another layer of concern. – Upper_Case Oct 29 '19 at 16:13
  • 9
    Please do report back on what you decided to do and what happened! – teego1967 Oct 31 '19 at 8:58
  • The real fishy thing here is NOT that there are video cameras in the rest-rooms (let's just assume that they could be acceptable from some POV). The real fishy thing is that THEY ARE CONCEALED. That leads me to think that they (whoever) know that it is illegal to have them, and they do not want people to know about it. If the cameras would be legal / acceptable / whatever, they would be visible just like any other cameras. – virolino Oct 31 '19 at 13:01
  • 2
    Where is OP I need to know what happened !!! – Green Baloon Oct 31 '19 at 14:32
70

They're on the ceiling overlooking the stalls so you can see into them.

So they're overlooking the stalls even when the stalls are closed?

The law in Washington seems pretty clear-cut to me.

https://www.washemploymentlaw.com/employee-rights/workplace-surveillance#1

I would call the police. Don't call 911. It's not an emergency. But find out what the local number for the police is and call them. If you're not sure about calling them, you could just visit your local police station and describe what you saw.

Do not ask the manager. Do not talk to HR. Get the police involved. If you complain about the cameras before the police get there, the cameras will be moved, pointed into different directions, incriminating footage will get erased, and signs notifying you of that hidden camera in the vents will be posted everywhere. In fact, that camera in the vents may even disappear overnight, so discreetly double-check that it is still there tomorrow morning before telling the police to come.

Then, I would use that police report when filing for unemployment (since as you said, you're not interested in working for such an employer). That being said, if upper management was truly not aware, they may beg you to stay.

|improve this answer|||||
  • 13
    "In fact, that camera in the vents may even disappear overnight" - they might, if the operators noticed the OP examining them. But, if he checks, they might notice that too ... – Mawg says reinstate Monica Oct 29 '19 at 8:18
  • 2
    I would suggest trying to make a picture of the camera from the stall. Even better would be a picture of the screen showing the footage. This would at least give OP the possibility to show evidence in case of a cover up. I really do hope that if this is really happening the police will get them for that as this is wrong on many levels. – Goodbye SE Oct 29 '19 at 10:07
  • 6
    "That being said, if upper management was truly not aware, they may beg you to stay." Not if you are going to the police first. Upper management would rather deal with it themselves first, which may actually involve dragging the culprits to the police, but having a police raid in the company is in most cases a career ending move. – Hilmar Oct 29 '19 at 12:30
  • 1
    @Hilmar the police wouldn't necessarily have to divulge which employee called them, would they? In that case, it might be best to not do anything that would draw unnecessary attention (such as photographing the cameras). Perhaps best to contact a lawyer first. – Time4Tea Oct 29 '19 at 14:23
  • 3
    @KamiKaze Absolutely don't try to take pictures or check they are still there in a noticeable way. Don't even look at it. At the latest after the police comes, you should assume (worst case) someone still has a copy of the footage and goes through it trying to find out who discovered the cameras. And even if you want to quit anyway, it's still better if you can do it without any hassle, on your own terms. – Nobody Oct 29 '19 at 18:04
30

You need to consult a lawyer and then the police. While I am not a lawyer, a quick Google search would HIGHLY indicate this is illegal. Putting a camera in a bathroom violates a person's reasonable expectation of privacy. Read this article from a lawyer in Washington state for more information.

Its probable one or more persons will be facing fines, criminal charges, civil charges, and jail/prison time. A lawyer will advise you on how best to protect yourself and coworkers when reporting this to the police. Not to mention advise you on what could happen in the future. This is serious. Even not reporting it could be unethical, or even illegal.

|improve this answer|||||
  • @RichardU I would hope its obvious, but perhaps not. Its probable one or more persons will be facing fines, criminal charges, civil charges, and jail/prison time. A lawyer will advise you on how best to protect yourself and coworkers when reporting this to the police. Not to mention advise you on what could happen in the future. This is serious. Even not reporting it could be unethical, or even illegal. – Keltari Oct 29 '19 at 13:25
  • I agree that contacting a lawyer first is probably the best and safest thing to do. – Time4Tea Oct 29 '19 at 14:24
0

Management, HR and sysadmin are definitely poor choices to start.

I'm not from the U.S. and I don't know in which field it is, but if you feel uncomfortable going directly to the police, talking to a union representative in the company is surely a good option. They might know if a similar issue has been raised and already addressed in the past and, in case not, raise it in the cleanest way.

If that does not work, due to lacking of union representative or to an unhelpful one, the police is the next option, and other answers have surely addressed that.

|improve this answer|||||
0

Cameras pointed into bathrooms stalls is extreme prison-like surveillance. Utterly unacceptable in every imaginable workplace, let alone the USA. Most likely it's a creep Sysadmin and not any sane manager's idea of a policy.

The police definitely need to be called at some point. But it might be helpful to gather several employees including higher level ones, bring them into the bathroom and pull down the vent to expose the camera, and then take a walk to the IT guy's office.

Yes, it would be a disruptive scene. The plus side is that it avoids putting you in a situation where the camera is removed making you look like you're making an explosive unbelievable claim.

|improve this answer|||||
-23

Inform your manager and move forwards from the response. This is illegal most workplaces unless perhaps there is full disclosure or it's some sort of porn business perhaps.

But you cannot ignore it now, you're on camera peering into mensroom air vents.

In terms of your options stated.

1) No, this isn't your role and you need to have your back covered.

2) Yes

3) No idea what you think this would accomplish particularly since you have only a little information.

4) Not until you have spoken to your manager and got at least some info.

Why not call police? Several reasons:

You have little info, these cameras might be a prank or something in bad taste but not what they seem.

Cameras could be removed before anyone looks.

You'll be unemployed and kicking over a fire at the same time, you will make personal enemies out of strangers, never a good thing.

Leaving a job under a cloud so quickly isn't great on a resume.... you can say it was cameras in the loos, but realistically, how believable is that?

|improve this answer|||||
  • 9
    Leaving a job after one week isn't great on a resume. That's true enough. But if you've only been there one week, you should leave it off your resume entirely (unless it's for a security clearance, which I doubt). – Stephan Branczyk Oct 29 '19 at 4:19
  • 3
    @Kilisi and if my coworker stabbed another coworker i'd report him to HR right? – Stun Brick Oct 29 '19 at 9:19
  • 33
    "these cameras might be a prank or something in bad taste" Pretty sure "it's just a prank bro" isn't a legal defense. – Ivo van der Veeken Oct 29 '19 at 9:57
  • 6
    Being "in the porn business" doesn't negate workplace privacy laws. – joeqwerty Oct 29 '19 at 11:49
  • 2
    Excepting that he's on camera and making an enemy is possible, I can't agree with another single statement you've made. 1) It's anyone’s role, just don’t tell sysadmin 2) mgmt. may be complicit or willing to cover up 3) letting others know their rights are violated 4) see #2. Risk of a 1 week job being found out is VERY low and only if they are interested enough that you’ll probably get to address it anyway. “little info”: illegal activity witnessed; “could be removed” = exactly why you DON’T tell the company first; “unemployment”: OP is unconcerned about unemployment. – John Spiegel Oct 29 '19 at 15:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.