Security Camera Laws in California: What You Need to Know Now

by Monica Gonzalez on Apr 29, 2021 11:34:21 AM
Security Camera Laws in California concept

Most commercial-grade security systems utilize both physical and cyber security strategies to keep unauthorized individuals out while also safeguarding company personnel, as well as valuable business assets. A business video surveillance system adds a visual element to a commercial security platform, giving management or corporate security teams the ability to see what is happening in important areas of a commercial property.

Without a professionally installed commercial video surveillance system, it can be nearly impossible to identify potential security threats, mitigate risk, or even determine what is happening at any given time at a company facility. Because of this every California-based business should have a video surveillance strategy in place to protect its most important assets, including its employees.

However, there are several different decisions to make when selecting a video surveillance system for your business. Having the right type of security cameras, employing effective monitoring strategies, and having quick access to audits and reports are all essential to a successful corporate video surveillance strategy.

It is especially important — particularly in California — for businesses to understand what they can and cannot do to ensure their employees’ safety, while also protecting both company assets and personnel privacy.

In a recent court ruling, the California Supreme Court cautioned that, “while privacy expectations may be significantly diminished in the workplace, they are not lacking altogether.” California employers should consider several practical measures when monitoring video surveillance, such as:

  • Notifying employees and others in the workplace about areas under video surveillance to eliminate any expectation of privacy.
  • Avoiding the placement of video cameras in locations in which video surveillance is prohibited by law (such as restrooms, locker rooms, or rooms designated for changing clothes).
  • Exercising caution when installing video cameras in non-public areas of the workplace, such as offices, and ensuring legal compliance with relevant Local, State and Federal regulations.
  • Remembering that audio surveillance is subject to different (and oWen greater) restrictions than video surveillance, including laws that prohibit the use of electronic amplifying or recording devices to eavesdrop or recording a confidential communication.
  • Recognizing that the laws governing video surveillance vary significantly by local and state jurisdiction. In many regions of the U.S., employees have greater privacy rights in the workplace, and local laws must be considered prior to implementing any workplace video surveillance program. This is particularly important for large corporations with locations across multiple sites, both domestically and abroad.

Employers can use video cameras in the workplace if it is solely for security purposes; however, they should notify staff of any surveillance activity proactively. Employers cannot use surveillance to monitor specific employees’ activities, such as union organizing. In addition, many surveillance cameras cannot utilize audio capabilities due to federal wiretap laws.

California-specific laws state that an employer cannot record employees in the following circumstances:

  • In bathrooms or locker room areas.
  • During union meetings.
  • In any manner that includes audio, unless both parties give consent.
  • In any space that where employees expect a reasonable degree of privacy, such as break rooms.

Businesses in certain industries must monitor the workplace with surveillance footage, however. Banks, restaurants, retail stores, and other workplaces that serve the public need to include video surveillance for both security and theft prevention purposes. In these business scenarios, employees do not and should not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Some workspaces fall within a “gray area” of privacy expectation and rightful employer monitoring, such as cubicles, common areas, and water coolers. California courts define an area as having a “reasonable expectation of privacy” if it has blinds, or company employees must access the area with a key. Courts do not consider common areas to be places where employees can reasonably expect privacy.

Do I have to post a sign for video surveillance in California?

Though not required, the State of California encourages property owners who use video surveillance to post video surveillance notices around their property. The signage removes the expectation of privacy because the company provides clear, written notice that employees and guests are being recorded.

Can I sue someone for recording me without my permission in California?

Each state has their own laws governing the legality of secretly recording a conversation. California’s laws are the toughest in the nation.

Penal Code 632 makes it illegal to monitor or record confidential communication without the consent of all parties involved. Absent this consent, conversations captured by audio and video violate a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. This rule applies even if someone is threatening you, or if for other reasons want to record a workplace conversation.

Individuals who record private conversations without the knowledge or consent of the other party face fines of up to $2,500 per violation and up to one year in prison. They may also face civil liability if the other party opts to file a civil suit. Typical fines in civil liability cases can run up to $3,000 per violation.

Do I need a license to install security cameras in California?

California requires a state contractors’ license to install surveillance equipment on public property. Licensed contractors like Security 101 carry liability insurance and warranty all installations. The California State License Board gives contractors a license number and requires them to display it on all advertisements and wherever the company’s name and/or logo appears.

When it comes to safeguarding commercial property, video surveillance grants exceptional added protection to the organization’s people, property, and inventory. An expert integrator, with vast knowledge of the specific laws and regulations at state and local level (San Diego, Los Angeles, Walnut Creek, etc,) is also essential to ensure compliance and avoid unnecessary penalties and liabilities, while guaranteeing continuous efficient monitoring of the premises. Security 101 is a reliable security leader with immense experience in California privacy statutes, who can enhance the potency of video surveillance and security for a business.

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We ❤️ California. Our experts will help you identify problems and clarify the solutions. And, Security 101 is certified with best-in-class security equipment manufacturers so you can count on a truly unbiased assessment of your buildings and installed equipment.

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This post was written by Monica Gonzalez