DEAR CARRIE: The office where I work has cameras installed everywhere, except in the bathrooms. We are just four employees, and there is nothing to steal, except paper clips. The owner watches the cameras in his office and on his phone. Is it legal to record and watch us? And if he adds sound to the cameras to record our conversations, is that legal? — Lights, Camera
DEAR LIGHTS: Legally, your employer can record you, but with some key exceptions.
“New York employers are permitted to install security cameras anywhere except for bathrooms, locker rooms and changing areas,” said employment attorney Richard Kass, a partner at Bond, Schoeneck & King in Manhattan.
And here is an exception that goes to your second question: An employer “is not permitted to install equipment that records sound,” Kass said. “That would violate the New York law against electronic eavesdropping.”
Kass summed your situation up best: “Not all forms of creepiness are against the law.”
DEAR CARRIE: My job requires me to be on call. When I get called in, I get paid for the hours I work. But if I don’t get called in, I do not get paid anything. The problem is we are required to be available between certain hours or days and cannot plan or do anything that would keep us from going to work. My question is: Should we get paid for these on-call hours because of the restrictions? When I speak with other employees, they say it is part of the job and if we refuse to be on call, we can be fired and the company has ways of getting around the laws.— Phone Tether
DEAR PHONE TETHER: Federal labor law looks at various aspects of this. First, an hourly employee who is required to remain on call on the employer’s premises is working.
Second, and to the point of your question, an employee who is not required to remain on his employer’s premises but has to remain “so close thereto that he cannot use this time effectively for his own purposes is working while on call,” federal labor law says.
Lastly: “An employee who is not required to remain on the employer’s premises but is merely required to leave word at his home or with company officials where he may be reached is not working while on call,” labor law says.
So the more restrictive the company is while you are on call, the more likely it is that it has to pay you for simply being on call. And again, these regulations apply to hourly employees.
As for firing you, unless you are covered by a union contract, your employer can fire you at any time for any reason, barring discriminatory actions. So refusing to be on call could cost you your job.
DEAR CARRIE: If an employee works a 42-hour week and eight of those hours are for a vacation or personal day, would he or she be entitled to two hours of overtime pay, or does the person have to physically work the 40 hours to get overtime?
— What Counts?
DEAR WHAT COUNTS: The latter is true. Your company doesn’t have to pay you overtime unless you actually work more than 40 hours a week. Paid time off doesn’t count toward hours worked.