Security cameras have become a part of life. Consumers think nothing of being monitored while they walk down the street, browse through a store, or even try on clothes in a retail dressing room.
But a group of New Yorkers is saying in a lawsuit that one pharmacy chain went too far when it installed security cameras in its bathrooms.
The plaintiffs, who all work for New York-based Duane Reade, say that the chain secretly installed the cameras in its warehouse bathrooms in Queens. In January 2008, an employee noticed the equipment, which was hidden in an air vent, according to the suit.
When the employee complained to management, they called a meeting at which employees were warned that they should “let it go” or be fired.
“Beyond all decency”
"To be watched in the bathroom -- this really goes beyond all decency,” lawyer Adam Thompson, who is representing the plaintiffs, told the New York Daily News.
“Basically, you had an employer abridging their rights as citizens to file a complaint,” Thompson said. “Who knows how far this went?”
In a statement, Duane Reade said it “[doesn't] believe the suit has merit.”
Thompson: Cameras “absolutely
Aldo Chumpitaz, one of the plaintiffs, told the Daily News that he thought the cameras were probably installed to prevent employees from stealing or tampering with merchandise.
“I saw the camera and told a supervisor, 'How is it possible?'” Chumpitaz said. “He told me, 'It wasn't working.'” But Thompson, the plaintiffs' attorney, says the cameras “were absolutely working.”
It's not the first time that an employer has been accused of illegally spying on its employees in a private situation. In late 2009, Wal-Mart was hit with a suit alleging that one of its Pennsylvania stores contained a camera hidden in a unisex bathroom.
The “off-the-shelf” camera was discovered in March 2008 in a bathroom served both employees and customers.
In that case, Wal-Mart said the camera had been placed there by two associates, who were “immediately terminated” once the store learned of the incident.
“When store management learned of the camera, it was immediately removed,” a Wal-Mart spokesman told ABC.
A fact of life
The suit raises questions as to how many cameras there really are out there -- and where they're hidden.
“I'm completely disturbed by Duane Reade's actions,” said Carol Sthilaire, who works in midtown Manhattan. “It's a complete invasion of privacy!”