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Restaurant Cameras Keep Tabs On Workers And Customers

The Dallas Morning News had an interesting article recently on the increasing use of surveillance cameras in restaurants. The cameras are used by restaurant owners to keep an eye on the employees’ conduct (and to a lesser extent, for actual security purposes). Excerpts from the article:

And while some privacy advocates may grimace, growing numbers of restaurateurs today are viewing things through the same lens.

Surveillance experts see food as the next big industry to become camera-ready, as restaurateurs take advantage of falling prices for technology to combat rising levels of theft.

The timing coincides with the use of high-speed telecommunications lines that restaurants are investing in to allow customers to pay with credit and debit cards. The same lines can be used for remote video surveillance, eliminating the need for clunky videocassette recorders – and laborintensive searches through tapes.

With the new digital equipment and an Internet connection, restaurant owners can monitor numerous sites from anywhere on the globe.

In addition to deterring crime, cameras can be used to monitor food-handling procedures and employee skills to see if additional training is needed. The equipment can also be used to identify and correct inefficiencies in store and kitchen layouts. They can protect owners from bogus slip-and-fall claims.

For Mr. Chapman and others, employees present a primary security threat.

“If we had 100 occasions with some sort of theft going on, 96 percent are from your own employees,” he said. “We’ve seen [on camera] people take boxes of product out of the refrigerator or freezer; boxes of chips, about 50 bags to a box; bread dough they take and bake at home.”

And he’s seen employees steal from the register.

At Mr. Chapman’s stores, cameras are trained on each cash register. He also has cameras watching the exterior doors and the dining rooms. The restrooms are about the only place in the restaurants that are off limits.

Courts generally have held that workers should have a diminished expectation of privacy in public areas – which would include the checkout area of a restaurant.

The possibility that cameras will be installed in inappropriate places, such as restrooms and locker rooms, has privacy experts concerned. They also suggest cameras can be intrusive.

quot;It’s not a privacy violation if you’re standing behind the counter where everyone can see you,” said Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute in Princeton, N.J. “But it’s not a pleasant way to work.”

The article also has some tips for business owners considering installing video cameras:


  • Identify and document the business reasons for using surveillance cameras. Legitimate reasons include health, safety, theft prevention and workplace productivity.
  • Hold meetings with employees to address morale concerns and to explain which areas of the workplace they should not expect to be private.
  • Adopt a written policy reserving the right to monitor the workplace with visible and hidden cameras.
  • For unionized labor forces, ensure that camera use has been addressed in collective bargaining.
  • Limit the times during the day that the cameras will be in use to achieve the business purpose.
  • Limit who is permitted to view any surveillance tapes and keep that group on a “need to know” basis.
  • Do not put cameras in restrooms or locker rooms where employees may change clothes.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

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The title of this blog reflects my attitude toward those government agencies and insurance companies that routinely mistreat injured or disabled people. As a Dallas, Texas lawyer, I've spent more than 45 years trying to help those poor folk, and I have been frustrated daily by the actions of the people on the other side of their claims. (Sorry if I offended you...)

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