What is the Legality of Fleet Dashcams?
With the prevalence of technology recording everything from conversations, website traffic, locations, photos, and video, the right to privacy in America has taken on a new meaning. Laws written for a more analog era are now being applied to technologies that blur the line between private and public life. This has reignited the debate about Americans’ protections against the harmful use of this new type of information gathering.
In a landmark ruling on cellphone data, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts addressed the issue, saying, “The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought.”
- But do the same protections extend to the workplace?
- Doesn’t the Constitution Guarantee Privacy?
While the Constitution and the Bill of Rights contain legal protections for American freedoms, there is no specific amendment relating to privacy.
The right to liberty – stated in the Declaration of Independence and protected by law through the liberty clause of the 14th Amendment – has traditionally been interpreted as a defense of privacy in a broad range of matters. However, some have argued that it does not give blanket protection of individual privacy.
However they are interpreted, these protections typically are limited to what the government can demand of its citizens. The scope of Constitutional privacy protection does not extend to the private sector, and businesses have much more leeway with what demands are acceptable as employers.
How the Law has Interpreted Dashcams
Professional drivers sometimes chafe at the concept of dashcams and other telematics devices, keeping an eye on them while in the workplace. Some drivers may even question whether or not the use of dashcams is legal. But time and time again, the law has upheld their use.
For fleets, dashcams are a valuable tool with a lot of upsides. Fleets can use dashcam footage to improve safety, train drivers, and provide exonerating evidence for lawsuits.
For these reasons, Vice President Kamala Harris upheld their use for fleets when she was California’s Attorney General in 2014. The state ruled that dashcams, including front-facing cameras, did not constitute a violation of labor laws when the footage was used as a basis for discipline and training so long as the driver’s employer was the only one accessing it.
While each state has its regulations around dashcams, they are legal to use in all 50 states, and the different rules only apply to the location where a fleet can mount a dashcam.
Disclosure is Crucial
Federal and state privacy and wiretapping laws prohibit using a person’s image or voice recording without their consent. That is why businesses must disclose to employees that they are being monitored.
While dashcams are typically mounted in plain view on the dash or window, if a fleet wanted to monitor its drivers covertly, that could open them up to a host of legal issues.
For instance, if a dashcam also records sound, California law requires the driver to inform any passengers that they are being recorded, but only in regards to audio, not video.
In the case of sleeper cabs, where a driver may conduct their off-time in view of a dashcam, the sleeper berth is not legally considered a “home” and is not subject to any special protections.
In other words, as an employment law attorney told a group of truckers in a conference on dashcams and privacy, “When you agree with an employer to work for them, and they tell you the camera’s there, you don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy.”
The Right to Leave Supersedes the Right to Privacy
Employees are given certain protections through state laws and labor laws that prevent discrimination and harmful workplace practices. But surveillance of an individual through company email, browser histories, electronic logs, or footage from dashcams is allowed so long as the employee is aware that they are being monitored.
While it may seem intrusive to some, the ultimate reason why employers are allowed to monitor their employees is that employees have a right to leave their job and find a more suitable employer.
It is a harsh-sounding reality but, to paraphrase a quote from Supreme Court Justice Oliver Holmes, drivers may have a constitutional right to privacy, but they have no constitutional right to be a driver.
Front-facing dashcams may be a dealbreaker for some drivers, but if fleets do a good job of explaining how the footage will be used, emphasizing the benefits to the driver and the fleet, they will be able to get the most out of their systems.
If you’d like to learn more about how GPS Trackit can help to improve safety, increase productivity and reduce costs for your business, speak with one of our knowledgeable Fleet Advisors at 866-320-5810 or get a quick Custom Quote.
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