SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today.
Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like him to answer? Submit it here.
My co-worker set up a hidden camera to film me and my other co-workers without consent from anyone or from the company owner. Is this even legal?—Anonymous
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: I can understand your surprise at finding out you and your colleagues have been filmed, but, depending on the details, it may be legal if there are safety concerns, possible illegal activity or other legitimate reasons.
For instance, it’s typical for employers to use video surveillance technology to identify any inappropriate behavior or unsafe working conditions or to track security data. Moreover, if you work in an industry like banking or real estate, surveillance is often used to enforce safety and security.
However, you mention it’s your colleague who has been filming you—that might be an entirely different situation. In most workplaces, employees should not be recording worksite activities without the permission of those being recorded, unless they have valid concerns about unlawful activity or safety issues. Depending on where you live, there are also “two-party consent” state laws that require all parties to consent to being recorded.
Note that while employers may generally ban unauthorized recordings in the workplace, there are a few situations where it’s legal. For example, under the National Labor Relations Act, an employer’s policy should not prohibit recordings showing hazardous workplace conditions or inconsistent application of employer rules, among other things.
I’m sorry to hear you feel your privacy has been violated in a safe space like your worksite. I recommend checking with your HR team to see if they have a workplace recordings policy that explains when recording is and is not permitted. If you find no policy exists, and you continue to feel uncomfortable, elevate your concerns to your people manager or HR.
I wish you the best.
What do you do when HR will not respond to questions you have about benefits like salary, bonuses and medical insurance? Every time I ask questions, I am told it’s not HR’s responsibility. I’m not sure who to turn to for answers to questions like what the pay schedule is or how I can add a dependent to my insurance. I’ve never been turned away from HR before like this!—Anonymous
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: I am sorry to hear this—nothing is more frustrating than when you need answers quickly and you simply don’t know where to turn.
Candidly speaking, HR is called human resources for a reason. They should be equipped to answer your questions, or, at the very least, point you in the right direction. In turn, you should feel comfortable and empowered asking the important questions you mentioned above.
I am almost certain your company doesn’t offer benefits only to keep the details about them vague. After all, employers are often legally required to provide a summary description of their medical plans and make this information available to their employees, depending on the type of coverage they have.
Additionally, other essential benefits information, such as your company’s compensation and incentive programs, should be clearly detailed somewhere—whether on the company intranet, in a handbook or in an onboarding packet.
The first thing I would do is speak with the people who know your new workplace best: current employees. Ask your people manager or co-workers who you should go to with questions, other than the HR person you’ve contacted. I would be surprised if your colleagues didn’t have the same questions when they joined your organization.
You don’t mention where you work or the structure of your organization, but I’ll note some HR departments outsource benefits functions to a third-party administrator. Some companies have an employee self-service feature on the company intranet where employees can access this type of information.
That said, it’s in the organization’s and employees’ best interest to share this important information in a clear, accessible way. I would also double-check your job offer letter and new hire paperwork to locate the company handbook, which should address some, if not all, of the information you’re looking for.
Good luck, and I hope you find the answers to your questions!