NLRB OK’s Use of Drive Cams – But Not to Spy on Union Activists
May 2, 2023 by Lorrie BradleyIn a recent case, the NLRB decided that an employer’s use of an in-cab surveillance camera to observe a driver while on his lunch break was an unfair labor practice. In Stern Produce Company, an employee covered a surveillance camera in his truck cab while eating lunch. He did not damage or disable the camera, but only covered it with his jacket while on break to have some privacy. The employee was a leader of a union organizing drive and had recently been ordered reinstated by the NLRB.
A supervisor texted the driver and told him that it was against company rules to cover the camera. The employer had previously told employees that it only viewed the camera when triggered by activities that indicated a safety concern, such as hard braking or an unscheduled stop. The fact that the employer made a change from its usual practice of only watching the video if triggered by a safety incident and the fact that the employee being watched was a visible union supporter, led the NLRB to conclude that the employer unlawfully surveilled the employee and created an impression of surveillance.
Many companies use “drive cam” systems that have both front-facing cameras and cameras that face the inside of the cab and the driver. The NLRB acknowledged that employers have legitimate reasons for using these camera systems such as preventing or investigating accidents. The Board did not prevent employers from using these systems, but the Board concluded that employers “cannot utilize the cameras in a manner that would indicate to the employees that their union or protected activities are under surveillance.”
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