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My employer is installing video surveillance equipment in the small retail store I work in.

East Lansing, MI |

However, I did not get any kind of notice or waiver to sign notifying me that I can be monitored by a surveillance system. My employeer also failed to notify me what privacy rights are guaranteed and exactly what constitutes as an invasion of privacy. My employeer has also expressed interest in audio surveillence as well, which I am sure is against the law, here in Michigan. Is there any kind of action I can take?

Attorney Answers 3


Why do you want to prevent your employer from providing a safer workplace. None of your rights are being violated if this is simply a security system. It is probably being installed for the dual purpose of reducing theft and keeping you safer.

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Under Michigan law it is a felony for a person to "install, place, or use in any private place, without the consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy in that place, any device for observing, recording, transmitting, photographing, or eavesdropping upon the sounds or events in that place." MCL 750.539d. However, the law specifically defines private place as "a place where one may reasonably expect to be safe from casual or hostile intrusion or surveillance but does not include a place to which the public or substantial group of the public has access." MCL 750.539a(1).

Therefore, your employer can legally install surveillance cameras in most parts of the store with or without your knowledge or consent. This, however, would not include bathrooms or dressing rooms. MCL 750.539j. Furthermore, there is no requirement under this law that your employer provide you with notice about your privacy rights.

Finally, it is not illegal for a person to install cameras in a private place if consent is given. This is true for recording conversations as well. MCL 750.539c. That means that your employer can install cameras even in the "nonpublic" areas of the store (or record conversations) with permission of the employees.

If you are an "at-will" employee, your employer could terminate your employment for refusal to give your permission. Most employees in Michigan are at-will, unless you have an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement that states otherwise. An at-will employee can be fired for any reason or no reason at all (except discrimination against a protected status or for retaliation against a whistle-blower).

DISCLAIMER: This answer is provided as general information, which may not be appropriate for the specific facts of your particular situation. No attorney-client relationship has been established based on this limited communication. You are advised to consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction before taking any action or inaction that may affect your legal rights.

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An employer can legally monitor the work premises by physically observing the work space and the behavior of employees. Under the law, work space would not include areas such as rest rooms, changing rooms or other areas where privacy is expected. An office with a door and no interior windows might create an expectation of privacy provided that the door was closed but that could be affected by a notice from the employer. Even a knock on the door could be reasonable notice. The rationale in this is that it is "work" space. Probably no employer will be so strict as to simply fire someone for an incident of non-work related activity but if an employer is physically observing an employee's work performance directly or through electronic means and concludes that the worker is not productive, discipline all the way up to discharge is legitimate. Generally, if you are effectively and diligently carrying out your employer's business, you should not have a problem. There are other ways of monitoring your performance that may be more effective but this type of activity is not prohibited under the law, unless it specifically violates the statutory limitations.

The information provided does not constitute legal advice and no attorney client relationship exists based upon this response. Unless specifically noted to the contrary, information refers to Michigan law. Prior to taking action, you should consult directly with an attorney for specific advice based on a full factual disclosure about your own legal situation. This information is provided for your personal use and may be reproduced for non-commercial distribution. All copies must include the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2011 THE HUBBARD LAW FIRM, P.C. Donald B. Lawrence, Jr. (P16463)*; THE HUBBARD LAW FIRM, P.C.*
DID 517-886-7115 Fax: 517-886-7129; Email: 5801 W. Michigan Avenue, Lansing, MI 48917; Phone: 517-886-7176; Fax: 517-886-1080 *AV Peer Rated, Martindale-Hubbell®
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