Case Report – Arbitrator makes (surveillance) camera-by-camera order

On March 10th, Arbitrator Robert Howe issued an award upholding an employer’s expanded video surveillance program while issuing a camera-by-camera order to minimize its privacy impact.

The employer installed cameras at its milk production facility, primarily to improve plant bio-security. The plant had not experienced a bio-security incident, but its auditor and a major customer urged it to improve its bio-security program. The employer installed additional cameras as part of this program, though it also acknowledged that the cameras would be used to investigate employee misconduct, including documented incidents of sabotage to equipment.

Arbitrator Howe applied a balancing of interests approach. He held that the new cameras were helpful in addressing the bio-security threat, and that the employer did not have to await a bio-security breach before implementing safeguards. He also held that the cameras were the only means of addressing employee misconduct.

Though endorsing the employer’s expanded surveillance program, Arbitrator Howe also issued an order that required it to direct cameras away from work areas as much as possible while preserving each camera’s efficacy. He also ordered that images obtained only be used as a tool to investigate bio-security threats or incidents, incidents of health and safety violations, and incidents of culpable conduct, with no real-time monitoring of employees for any other purposes, and no use of those images for purposes of monitoring production, lateness, or attendance.

Re Teamsters Local Union 647 and William Neilsen Dairy (Surveillance Camera Grievance), [2009] O.L.A.A. No. 129 (Howe) (QL).

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