Company Settles Charges Of Using CCTV To Look at Women's Breasts

By: Ben Wood, Published on Apr 11, 2014

A company was ordered to pay a female employee $11,000 after an investigation found that the owner regularly used the surveillance system to stream footage of the employee's breasts to his computer. What’s shocking is not the settlement (people should be punished for bad behavior), but the admission of the company owner to the victim of how it uses its surveillance system.

In this note, we review incidents the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission calls “a particularly egregious case of sexual harassment.”

Background

Recent college graduate Tracey Kelley was 22 when she started working for Davis Typewriter Co. as a purchaser. This was in March 2010. The company president who hired her also employed his own daughter as a manager. It was a family business, but Kelley would quickly learn that she was not a part of the family.

In July a female co-worker overheard a conversation between two employee’s from the IT department saying it was disturbing how the store's cameras would follow Kelley around and zoom in on her face, chest and body.

“After discovering this, [the IT Department] moved the security camera back to its proper position, but less than an hour later he noticed the camera had moved back to focus on Kelley’s workspace, frequently zooming in to focus on her face and chest,” according to court documents.

It wasn’t long after that, that someone from the IT department gave Kelley a DVD with hours of footage of her on it. He also gave her the user logs showing her supervisor, Stan Alm, had been controlling the camera.

She took the DVD home and watched it. A few hours into the video, “the camera zooms in closer to Kelley’s face and chest. Several times throughout the day, the camera repeatedly adjusts to capture Kelley’s movements around her work space and on several occasions zooms in so that Kelley’s chest is the only object visible on the screen.”

The next day she confided what she found to the company owner’s daughter and asked to take the rest of the day off, but as she was leaving, the company owner called her into his office to tell her that he also uses the cameras to look at women in the store and that “men will always look at beautiful women.”

For that reason, he said, any action he took against Alm, would not be taken seriously. She left the office and never returned.

EEOC Involvement

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Kelley filed a complaint with the EEOC. The agency opened an investigation, which concluded that there was “reasonable cause to believe that Defendant discriminated against Ms. Kelley on the basis of sex/female by subjecting her to sexual harassment and constructively discharging her.”

The agency tried conciliation efforts with the company, which failed. So in August 2013, it filed a lawsuit saying Kelley’s manager created a sexually hostile work environment with “ongoing, surreptitious video surveillance ... focusing the cameras on her face, body and chest.” The case was filed last August and settled April 2014.

“Kelley no longer feels comfortable in places with security cameras and doesn’t think that will ever change,” court documents say.

The Settlement

As part of the settlement agreement Davis Typewriter was ordered to pay Kelley $11,000 and provide only positive job references for her.

It was also ordered to provide its employees with annual sexual harassment training that had to be reported in detail to the EEOC and prove annually that is in compliance with the settlement.

The company, when reached by phone, told me it had nothing to say about the case.

Analysis

This is another case of inappropriate use of cameras in the workplace. In January we covered a case where a guard was fired for reporting this same type of behavior. It really makes you wonder how prevalent this is.

Kelley's case illustrates the importance of end users having surveillance camera policies to explicitly outline what is acceptable use for the system and what is not. Policies should be based on company rules, but also on local, state and federal laws as well. From reading this case it seems like the primary use of the system was to look at women - which may have been acceptable internally, but legally constitutes sexual harassment.

Additionally workplaces should make it clear that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.

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