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.
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.