Workers Set to Sue Spying Employer

January 8, 2002 ( Employees of trucking company Consolidated Freightways are free to pursue an invasion of privacy suit against their employer, according the US Supreme Court.

In Consolidated Freightways v Cramer, workers filed suit after the company installed video surveillance cameras in bathrooms, claiming that the cameras violated their privacy and were illegal under a state law prohibiting secret videotaping.

Case History

In 1997 a Consolidated employee knocked down a mirror, revealing a camera, in the bathroom. Similar setups were found in other bathrooms.

The trucking company maintains that the cameras were installed in a bid to stop illegal drug use or sales at a shipping terminal in California. Workers were informed that they might be videotaped.


The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals had found that California state law, which makes it a crime to place a hidden camera in a bathroom, overrides the federal law on the uniformity of union-negotiated employment contracts.

Consolidated, arguing that the unionized employee lawsuit was prohibited under federal labor law,  took the matter to the Supreme Court, claiming that the Teamster Union’s collective bargaining agreement provides for video surveillance, and gives workers internal channels to file grievances.