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Cameras in Restrooms: Invasion or Legitimate?

When does security become excessive? Many people would consider cameras in the bathroom a strict invasion of privacy but Virginia club owner and restaurateur Dennis Smith disagrees. After multiple acts of vandalism in the men’s restroom of his restaurant Smith installed a security camera as the customers were walking in. The equipment did not reveal patrons as they were using the facilities in the bathroom however.

After getting a warrant to search Smith’s Club Midway and Calabash Seafood Restaurant local police of the Hanover County Sheriff’s office took down the camera and confiscated the recordings. It is now possible Smith could be charged with “unlawful filming,” a misdemeanor in Virginia, which has a penalty of up to a year in jail and $2,500 fine.

Many businesses require surveillance equipment in their operation to increase security and prevent as much vandalism or theft as possible. While it is most often legal for owners to place cameras in common areas (dining rooms, kitchens, employee common areas, or where patrons shop) it is rarely allowed for owners to place security cameras in places considered to be private to customers and employees alike such as bathrooms, locker rooms or changing rooms.

Legally cameras are also often only allowed to record video and not take audio. Businesses that include audio must be sure that they are not violating any wiretapping laws within their state.

Some tips to ensure your business is operating under the law would be to hire well trained security. Guards in and around a business will dramatically cut down on vandalism. Also businesses who suspect customers of vandalism or theft are completely within their rights to refuse them service without stating an explanation.

If you own a business that has questions about security and how to remain within the law please contact your local attorney to ensure best practices.