Is live monitoring of restroom activities legal?

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Is live monitoring of restroom activities legal?

I work for a health care provider. My supervisor wants to implement a program requiring me to personally observe the hand washing techniques of employees in restrooms (i.e. time how long they take to wash their hands) and document the results on a form. Is this legal? In CA, it is illegal to monitor restroom activities with cameras, audio, 2-way mirrors, etc, as patrons have a reasonable expectation of privacy there. However, I can’t find a statute that specifically prohibits “in-person” monitoring.

Asked on April 7, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The information that you have given here also makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  I would find a way to tactfully decline this assignment or ask that the issue be addressed formally in a memo and sanctioned by the legal department.  You are looking here for a statute that addresses the issue specifically but sometimes the interpretation of the statute in case law is really what you would be using as the basis for refusal.  In my opinion I think that a court would interpret the two way mirror monitoring as "in person" monitoring and extend it to actually being in the bathroom without purpose other than to monitor the activity of the patrons.  I am assuming your supervisor is not going to have you wear a sign saying "I am here to see how long you wash your hands" so that there is disclosure, correct?  Then bow out gracefully.  Good luck. 


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