Security cameras in private businesses are typically legal. But should your business install surveillance cameras in your restrooms?
Yes, according to Virginia restaurant and club owner Dennis Smith, who installed a camera in the men's restroom after "years of vandalism," reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Smith claims the camera is situation "to capture patrons as they enter without revealing those using bathroom facilities."
Is it legal to install security cameras in your business' restrooms?
Club/Restaurant's Restroom Camera Confiscated
After obtaining a search warrant for Smith's business, the Calabash Seafood Restaurant and Club Midway, Hanover County sheriff's deputies confiscated the surveillance equipment in September and disabled the camera, reports the Times-Dispatch.
The Hanover prosecutors are considering charging Smith with unlawful filming, a Virginia misdemeanor which can land a convict in jail for up to a year with up to a $2,500 fine.
Can Businesses Have Cameras at All?
Private businesses typically can have security cameras installed where customers and employees have no reasonable expectation of privacy and there is a legitimate business purpose -- typically to prevent theft or vandalism. This means that cameras in break areas, the business' common areas, and any area in which customers eat, shop, or receive services is typically legal.
However, in areas where patrons and employees can expect some degree of privacy, like bathrooms or changing rooms, it is generally not legal for employers to monitor those areas with cameras.
This is true even if the cameras are in plain sight, although companies are recommended to provide notice to their employees when hidden cameras may be used to surveil common areas.
Security cameras should also be used only to record video and not audio. That's because the use of cameras to record audio of employees or customers can potentially violate state or federal wiretapping laws.
Legal Alternatives to Restroom Cams
Since the placement of a camera in the restroom (regardless of where it's pointed) is too legally risky, business owners may want to consider alternatives such as:
- Hiring (more) security. If the issue is either theft or vandalism, a well-trained security guard may prevent either from occurring via the restroom.
- Refusing service altogether. Private businesses can absolutely refuse service if the business suspects a customer of stealing or vandalism.
If you still have questions about how your business can legally monitor your premises with or without camera, you may want to contact an experienced local business attorney.
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