The Laws on Workplace Surveillance in Ontario

Christianne Money

July 31 2019

As technology becomes increasingly accessible and affordable, surveillance is becoming a common feature in places of business across the country. Employers may want to install video surveillance in their workplaces in order to protect their employees, their products and to prevent theft and sexual harassment. However, there are federal laws on privacy that apply to private enterprises in Ontario. Here’s what employers should know about their employees’ privacy rights before they install surveillance cameras in their businesses.

The Laws on Video Surveillance

Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) is enforced by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and is the only legislation that relates to privacy in the workplace in Ontario. There are no provincial laws that specifically address workplace surveillance.

PIPEDA oversees the collection, use and disclosure of personal information in private sector organizations. According to this legislation, employers are allowed to record video in the workplace if the circumstances are reasonable and if employees have been notified.

Recording Audio

The law is less tolerant of audio recording. Generally, private conversations cannot be recorded. Employers who record conversation, without the permission of at least one participant, can be found to be violating section 184 of the Criminal Code. To avoid this risk, surveillance cameras should have their audio recording option switched off.

The Expectation of Privacy

When installing surveillance cameras, employers must also consider their employees’ expectation of privacy. There can be no expectation of privacy in public areas such as lobbies, receptions or at registers, and therefore surveillance might be appropriate. Regardless, employers must keep a notice of surveillance posted in a conspicuous location where their employees will see it.

Surveillance is less likely to be reasonable in bathrooms, change rooms and personal offices, where employees might expect privacy. If taken to court over a privacy concern, employers might have a harder time proving the need for surveillance in these areas.

Do you need advice on your employees’ privacy rights?

Speak to our HR experts to learn employer best practices for surveillance in the workplace. We can help you determine whether surveillance is appropriate for your business and advise you on the most compliant placement cameras. Learn about your employer obligations today: 1 (888) 795-1242.

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