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




Although Massachusetts was recently named one of the safest states in the U.S., ranking #6 on the list overall, the Bay State didn’t do so well in terms of workplace safety, placing at #42. According to Crime Grade, a crime occurs every 3 minutes, on average, in Massachusetts. The crime rate is 24.73 per 1000 residents, with about 53,485 crimes per year.

The utilization of video surveillance is an effective strategy to counteract criminal activity. Not only does a sophisticated system monitor ongoing issues and events and protect employees and visitors, but cameras also collect evidence for investigations, help you maintain accurate documentation, and deter lawbreakers.

Without a doubt, a security system that integrates video surveillance strategically is capable of protecting your business in the Old Colony much more effectively. Yet, learning about security camera laws in MA — and applying them — is critical to ensure you are hardening your site, without violating the rights of privacy.

Massachusetts on video surveillance in the workplace

Generally, employers are allowed to perform employee monitoring as long as there is a valid legal reason to do so. Whether it is to improve staff productivity, diminish false legal claims, or increase protection in the workplace by preventing theft, violence, or sabotage; cameras can be deployed under certain specific conditions.

Yet, it is important to recognize that just as business owners have legal rights to install surveillance cameras in their property, employees also have rights to privacy and a right to know when they are under surveillance.

In Massachusetts, the below guidelines should be carefully followed to avoid penalties.

    1. Determine and document your business reasons for having surveillance cameras. Legitimate reasons include health, safety, theft prevention, workplace productivity, and security. Consider limiting the times during the day the cameras will be in use to achieve the specified business purpose (i.e, productivity, internal theft).
    2. Because courts generally analyze invasion of privacy by evaluating the employee’s reasonable expectation of privacy against an employer’s legitimate business interests in conducting surveillance, cameras should never be located in areas where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as bathrooms, bedrooms in rental units, locker rooms, washrooms, showers, or rooms designated for the change of clothes. G. L. c. 272 s 105.
    3. Cameras should be visible and employees — or tenants — must be informed that there are security cameras on the premises with clear and explicit signs designating the camera’s presence.
    4. In addition, they should be notified about video storage and reviewing policies. Inform new employees in advance of their employment, if possible.
    5. Adopt a written policy reserving the right to monitor the workplace with visible and hidden cameras. The policy should reserve the right to use hidden cameras on the premise when the employer reasonably suspects health, safety, or company policy violations.
    6. Notices of video recording should be placed in common areas. If cameras are advanced enough to capture audio, you must get employees' consent to being audio recorded, especially because sound can travel and get obtained, even when the video is not gathered. An alternative in the Bay State is to install cameras with the audio feature deactivated.
    7. Have meetings with your staff to address possible questions or concerns. Surveillance cameras can send a message that employees are not trusted, create resentment and lead to employee morale issues. It is key to discuss which areas of the workplace employees should not expect to be private.

Unlawful videotaping is severely punished in MA, by imprisonment in the house of corrections for up to 2.5 years, by a fine of up to $5,000, or both. More serious infractions can lead to up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both a fine and imprisonment.

Interfering with employees' rights

Employees have the right to unionize, to join together to advance their interests as employees and to refrain from such activity. Thus, it is unlawful for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights.

Make sure that the topic of video surveillance and its specifics are addressed as part of the collective bargaining process for unionized labor forces. Although you do not have to reveal exact camera locations and times of use, you should discuss the general purpose and need for surveillance.

Audio recording: Massachusetts — a two-party consent state

The Old Colony is a two-party consent state that requires the consent of any individual whose voice is being recorded. Recording another individual’s words without the individual’s knowledge or consent is a felony in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Wiretapping Statute, G. L. c. 272 s 99, makes it illegal to secretly hear, secretly record, or aid another to secretly hear or secretly record the contents of any wire or oral communication through the use of any intercepting device by any person other than a person given prior authority by all parties to such communication.

Hence, if your organization operates in Massachusetts, you should always inform all parties that you are recording, unless it is absolutely clear to everyone involved that you are recording (i.e., the recording is not "secret"). Under Massachusetts's wiretapping law, which applies to secret video recording when sound is captured, if a party to a conversation is aware that you are recording and does not want to be recorded, it is up to that person to leave the conversation.

Please note that you can still violate this statute by secretly recording, even when you are in a public place. In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the Massachusetts wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party.

The need of a license

In Massachusetts, people or businesses that install and maintain security systems need three licenses:

      • System Contractor License
      • Systems Technician License
      • S-Licence (required by law to perform security work in Massachusetts)

Fully licensed contractors, like Security 101, carry liability insurance and warranty all installations.

A license ensures:

      1. Knowledgeable installation with proper camera placement to keep your organization secure and compliant.
      2. Safe installation to protect against electrical issues and camera failure.
      3. Recourse through your state licensing entity, if the installer does a poor job.
      4. Protection against scammers, fraud, and criminals who use security camera installation as a cover.
Lawful use of video surveillance

Efficient monitoring is important to protect your employees and property. However, it is equally necessary to comply with Massachusetts’s laws in order to avoid penalties and expensive liabilities.

To ensure your organization is abiding by the law, it is crucial to closely collaborate with an expert security professional, competent in protecting businesses with sophisticated video surveillance technologies and who knows in depth the specific laws and regulations at the state and local level in Boston, Worcester, Springfield, or Cambridge.

Don't risk legal repercussions

Reach out to us now and schedule a consultation with our knowledgeable professionals. We will help you navigate the complex landscape of video surveillance laws effortlessly. Your business deserves the best protection!