Security Cameras: “I’m being spied on at work by my boss.”

“What is your opinion on salon owners who install surveillance cameras. Ours face into the salon…at the staff and clients. They’re on the salon floor, at the front desk, in the break room, and in the dispensary. The best part? They record sound and have a high enough resolution to see the display on a cell phone from across the room. Meaning our salon owner can hear your conversations and read your text messages. The employees are outraged and sees this as a huge invasion of privacy. Many of us are upset because we feel the owner doesn’t trust us. We’re creeped out by the entire situation and are worried about the privacy of our clients as well. I feel like I can’t be myself anymore. Every day at work I’m like a robot. I have to watch everything I say and do as if my boss were standing in the room. Is this legal?”

On a federal level, your employer can legally audiotape you so long as they have a “legitimate business purpose,” which isn’t hard to justify. Your state laws may require one or all parties to consent or may require a posted notice. As a general rule, the law prohibits recordings in areas where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy (like changing rooms, bathrooms, and locker rooms). Public spaces are, well, public. You aren’t necessarily legally entitled to privacy in those spaces.

Legality aside, it seems to me that the owner likely did have a legitimate business purpose to implement the surveillance system—otherwise you wouldn’t feel so concerned about watching everything you say and do, right? Your employer wants you to believe you’re being watched at all times so that you will behave as if you are being watched at all times. Since it’s impossible for the owner to be there from open to close every day, the cameras are a suitable stand-in. Obviously, they’re doing their job. Since the notification you received from your employer clearly influenced you to immediately modify your behavior, I’d argue that you should consider whether you were behaving appropriately prior to the installation of the cameras and ask yourself if they aren’t actually a positive influence on your job performance.

When you’re at work, you shouldn’t require any privacy. You shouldn’t ever be speaking about or doing anything that you wouldn’t say or do in front of your employer. Your behavior in the salon reflects on the business as a whole and affects the success of those around you as well. All of us, at one point or another, have lost clients due to the actions of our badly behaving coworkers.

I’m willing to bet that employee misbehavior has caused enough of a problem that the owner decided the cameras were necessary.

At the end of the day, the one thing most business owners prioritize is making money. They don’t care if your boyfriend left you or if you’re about to be evicted from your apartment because you blew your rent money on shoes. They’re not interested in your gossip, your drama, or that rash you can’t get rid of any more than the majority of your clients are. If the salon owner feels the need to install cameras, they’re probably not “spying” on you; they’re babysitting you because at some point, you have proven that you can’t be trusted to act like responsible, professional adults when you’re left without supervision.

Some clients get a little too personal in our chairs. This oversharing isn’t appropriate so get comfortable establishing and enforcing boundaries.

You’re a professional; not a confessional.

Too many salon professionals see themselves as therapists and have no problem doling out life and relationship advice as if they were qualified to do so. Not only are you not qualified to be giving this advice, but you’re not being paid to be a client’s friend, counselor, or confidant, so stop.

A nosy owner who wants to snoop on you probably will not tell you they’re installing a surveillance system (nor tell you what those systems are truly capable of) and neither will an employer who wants to secretly observe your behaviors in the salon so they have valid reasons to fire you. An employer who wants you to shape up will let you and the rest of your coworkers know that the system has been installed and that it’s listening to everything.

Be grateful your owner was courteous enough to give you the warning. With any luck, you might be able to save your jobs.


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4 Responses

  1. Hi I’m a caregiver for a family and they have spy camera everywhere in pictures lamps little holes in the walls even in the bathroom yes bathroom fans plants coffee pots and when I go out on a break I have to carry a walkie talkie and it has a spy camera in it they even have them in out side plants and what really is upsetting is I dont lock my car and my boss put a camera in the speaker the funny thing is you can hear these spy camera click on and off and you can hear them moving around trying to find me ….I’ve worked for these people for 2 years now …..does any one have advice on this

  2. This answer seems incredibly one sided. The fact of the matter is we’re not robots and personal conversations are had. I’ve had a boss actually try and use my personal conversation against me. That feels wildly invasive. This person clearly said they installed cameras in the break room. Why are you baby sitting employees in the break room? That’s no longer in front of customers???

    1. In some states, break rooms are considered places where employees can expect a reasonable degree of privacy. If you’re in one of those states, those cameras don’t belong there. As a salon owner, I only care about the conversations happening on the floor where everyone within earshot could potentially overhear them. I couldn’t care less what people talk about in the non-customer areas of the salon.

      And yes, the answer is one-sided. I don’t owe anyone neutrality on issues of professionalism, lol. Conversations should always be appropriate on the salon floor. If you consider that opinion objectionable, consider how you’d feel if one of your coworkers spent all day having loud conversations about controversial, inflammatory, or severely inappropriate topics. That coworker would make at least some of your clients uncomfortable to the point that they’d complain and/or leave the salon altogether. Now consider how you’d feel if you knew this coworker’s loud conversations to be impacting your ability to retain clients and, by extension, your paycheck. You’d likely want the salon owner to intervene, right?

      Being professional doesn’t mean being a robot. It means being considerate and conscientious of the fact that you work in a fishbowl and that the other fish in that fishbowl might not be appreciative of inappropriate conversation.

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