Last night, I caught a glimpse of CBS’ hit show "Undercover Boss". The premise of the reality show is simple: A CEO goes "undercover" in the workplace to see what’s "really" happening. In last night’s episode, the CEO of Frontier Airlines went behind the scenes to, among other things, remove human waste from airplane bathrooms.
Putting aside the question of whether this was a good use of Sunday time, it raised an interesting question in my view: What types of surveillance can an employer use in the workplace in Connecticut?
Connecticut actually has a state law on surveillance. Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-48b limits what an employer can do in two main instances:
- Employers cannot operate "any electronic surveillance device or system, including but not limited to the recording of sound or voice or a closed circuit television system" for the purposes of monitoring employees in areas "designed for the health or personal comfort of the employees or for safeguarding of their possessions, such as rest rooms, locker rooms or lounges."
Obviously, the important limitation on the monitoring is that it cannot be done in places that are typically viewed as more private such as bathrooms or locker rooms. Nevertheless, it also extends to "lounges" as well.
Violations of this section can range from $500 for the first offense to jail time for the third offense.
- Employers also cannot "intentionally overhear or record a conversation or discussion pertaining to employment contract negotiations between the two parties, by means of any instrument, device or equipment, unless such party has the consent of all parties to such conversation or discussion. "
In practical terms, this provision is intended to prevent employers from monitoring union representative discussions — something that the NLRB would typically take issue of anyways.
There are other rules in the workplace as well, such as laws prohibiting electronic monitoring without proper notice.
So before your company’s CEO decides to become his or her own "Undercover Boss", be aware of the legal limits of such a practice. Of course, if you just want to find out what kind of "boss" you are, CBS provides this "quiz" on its "Undercover Boss" website.