Court Agrees Anheuser-Busch Unlawfully Used Hidden Cameras

July 7, 2005 ( - A federal appeals court has sent back to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) a case against Anheuser-Busch Cos. for use of hidden workplace cameras, to decide if 16 employees disciplined because of activities caught on tape are due any remedies.

Circuit Judge Judith Rogers of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected  Anheuser-Busch’s appeal of the previous decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that the company’s use of the cameras violated federal labor laws, the Associated Press reported. The NLRB said the violations were because the company had not negotiated the use of the cameras with the employees’ labor union, Brewers and Maltsters, Local No. 6,    before installing them.  

>The company claimed that matters of internal security do not have to be negotiated with the union and the employees should have had no expectation of privacy in an area that was not designated for breaks.

According to the court documents, Anheuser-Busch installed hidden cameras in an elevator motor room on the roof on one of its St. Louis, Missouri plants after being warned by a supervisor that the room was being used for breaks and perhaps illegal drug use.   Upon viewing videos and after confessions from employees, five workers were discharged for smoking marijuana, four were suspended and seven others signed “last-chance” agreements for other company policy violations, according to the AP report.

The day after the cameras were removed, the company informed the employees’ union of their use.   Verbal and written requests from the union for more information about the hidden-camera use were virtually ignored by the company, according to court documents.  

The NLRB determined, in spite of the unlawful use of hidden cameras, the five employees were not eligible for reinstatement of their positions or back pay because their discharge was warranted due to the violations of the company’s drug policy.   The union appealed this decision, and Rogers agreed, feeling remedies should be reviewed again by the Board since the company only knew of the violations because of the hidden cameras, according to the AP.  

The appeals court opinion can be read  here .