Consolidated Freightways' right to monitor company restrooms for illegal drug use will be decided in a case that went to trial in Pasadena, CA, last week.
An employee discovered surveillance equipment in a men's room at CF's Mira Loma terminal in September 1997 when he tried to adjust a crooked mirror. Riverside County sheriff deputies seized cameras, videotaping equipment and a two-way mirror from two men's rooms. However, officials declined to press charges.
Employees said they were never told they were being taped in the bathroom.
Lawyers for CF said that the right to videotape employees in a restroom was implicit in the union contract between the company and its employees, reported the Riverside, CA, Press-Enterprise.
They said every employee, when they go to work, give up some right of privacy. The cameras were intended to watch for illegal drug use.
The plaintiff's lawyer, however, said California law explicitly bans bathroom spying.
In February 1998, a federal trial judge sided with the company and dismissed the lawsuits. The plaintiffs appealed. The three-judge panel at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena heard arguments last week on three related cases: Cramer vs. Consolidated Freightway, a class-action lawsuit; Blevins vs. Consolidated Freightways, involving 273 CF employees; and Theresa Hoffman vs. Consolidated Freightways.
The first two cases charge the company with invasion of privacy. The third alleged wrongful termination arising from the videotaping. The lawsuits were filed within weeks of each other in fall 1997.
A decision could be handed down this spring.