“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.