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Is it legal for a facility to place video cameras in areas where nurses work?

Dear Nancy,

I am an RN who works in a hospice inpatient unit. For the last year or so, the nurses have been harassed, written up for staying over our shift to finish documenting, accused of stealing medications (which was unfounded) and are generally afraid to go to work. Incidents are not investigated correctly and we are told to do things that are out of our scope of practice. Now administration has placed video cameras in the nurses station and med room to watch us, but not for any safety purpose. Is this legal? We are all good nurses and have given no cause to be treated so disrespectfully.

Nellie

 

Dear Nellie,

Generally, employers have a right to place video cameras at work as long as the employer’s purpose is a legitimate one, meaning they are used in connection with evaluating job performance and related activities. Your right of privacy as an employee is not absolute. Rather, it is balanced with the right of the employer to govern the workplace. Many facilities use video cameras because they increase safety of staff, help employees be on their best behavior at work, and provide evidence if a crime is committed.

In reviewing what is a legitimate use of videotaping of employees, factors such as where the video cameras are placed are important. Cameras in the nursing station and the medication room are well within the rights of the employer.

Although you characterize the accusation of stealing medications as not truthful, if the employer has a legitimate concern that diversion might be going on, it has a right to monitor activities in the medication room. The employer can also monitor the nurses station for the same reason.

An example of a nonlegitimate use of video cameras in your situation would be if cameras were placed in the staff bathroom or locker room. Nursing staff’s right of privacy would outweigh the employer’s right to place cameras there because their placement would not be consistent with governing the workplace.

If an employer decides to use videotaping, notice to all employees must occur and include where the cameras will be placed.

You did indicate that there are relationship issues with your employer, including harassment and not investigating incidents properly. All of your concerns should be brought to the attention of your CNO. Harassment in the workplace should not be tolerated, nor should sloppy investigations of work incidents be acceptable behavior by the employer. Likewise, being required to practice outside the scope of your nursing practice is clearly unacceptable.

If you think the video cameras cannot be separated from the relationship issues with your employer, seeking the advice of a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who can specifically evaluate your concerns and provide options for resolving them would be a good idea.

Exploring the relationship issues with an attorney will also help develop a legal plan of action, if appropriate, that will end these actions by the employer.

Sincerely,
Nancy

By | 2015-09-21T15:27:47+00:00 September 23rd, 2015|Categories: Nursing careers and jobs|5 Comments

About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, Nurse.com's legal information columnist, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues in nursing and healthcare delivery across the country and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 30 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist.  Nancy Brent’s posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice.  Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state.  Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state. To ask Nancy a question, email BrentsLaw@nurse.com.

5 Comments

  1. Jerry P Hawker October 4, 2015 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    Hello Ms. Nancy Brent: I am not sure of where I can submit a question or concern on your blog. I will take the chance you will see this as it is a question that I didn’t think I would ever be asking! I have been working as either a nurse extern or RN, BSN since 1990. I have never had an issue with an employer or anyone else like this! I am very surprised it has come to be with my current supervisor. She has taken to editing my notes after they have been signed off on by me! I talked to her the first time I became aware she did this and got our compliance officer in Boston to intervene and tell her to stop this action. I have again become aware (by her own email) that she once again altered all of the RN’s notes sent to the state and thus not to worry about them, that she has taken care of the problem of a watermark showing up on them as this watermark came to be because of the form being a new one. I sent the compliance office in Boston a copy of her email but have not heard back in over a month. I have copied and taken the email and its information and sent it to the Attorney General’s office in our state and they forwarded it on to the office of Medicaid Fraud to be looked into. I am sure that this woman supervisor doesn’t feel she did anything wrong in altering this document to just remove a watermark. I feel that she should not have done this as the RN’s should have been responsible for the aesthetics of the document. The watermark is supposed to have been the only change in this document. Due to the problem of the editing other information the first time and hence the lack of trust we RNs now have that what we signed off on was the complete notes. I feel like the watermark should not have been touched by her or anyone else. It may look different with the watermark on there, but certainly did not obscure or change the meaning of anything we wrote in the note. Am I over-reacting? this company is a Home Health company and has been in business for about two years in our state. I am a transfer from another branch where nothing like this was a problem. I am sure that it is an isolated problem to the branch I transferred into. The company has officially a no retaliation policy but now I am concerned as this is the second time that I have created a “problem” for them at this branch and supervisor. I would love to go back to the branch of the company I transferred from but the need isn’t there. I am now a bit paranoid about retribution and do not respect or trust this supervisor. I have made my feelings known to Boston office but am not feeling the warm and bubbly glow or that I am wanted and respected. I do not know if the company or the supervisor are aware that I complained to the Attorney General’s office. I don’t think they are aware yet. When a report like this goes forth does the agency investigators have to divulge who and where the complaint came from? I have never had the need to turn anyone over for anything like this before. Do I have any protections? Thanks. Jerry RN

  2. ora December 18, 2016 at 12:43 am - Reply

    is it a legal for a nurse’s station to be in a 46in by 76in with no window. Also in case with a medical supply cabinet with about 25 inhalders.

  3. Hayk S May 31, 2018 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    Yeah i totally agree with you Nancy! I like it when you said that “your right of privacy as an employee is not absolute”. Very true!

  4. ADL July 12, 2018 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    What about family putting a camera in loved ones room at nursing home facility? Shouldn’t the facility have the right to know that it has been placed?

  5. cole w December 2, 2018 at 7:12 am - Reply

    if you work in hospital can your boss watch you from home on his own phone without you knowing and isn’t it hippa law to have video cameras on a locked unit in a hospital?

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