The relationship between an employer and an employee is complicated at best. Employers want what’s best for the future of their company, and they want to keep their employees happy and maximize their potential as workers and potential partners. It’s that sense of responsibility that makes employee theft hurt when it does occur. The financial repercussions only make things worse, adding insult to injury.
As much as we would love to trust the talent we hire and hope that every employee shares our enthusiasm for the business, it’s important to remember that employee theft is not a minor issue in the US. As such, all employers must walk a delicate line between protecting their property and their investment and protecting the privacy rights of their employees. More than half of all employers in the US use surveillance, but it’s how you use that surveillance that really counts. Improper placement of video surveillance in the workplace can land you in a heap of legal trouble or lead to a series of expensive bills with no real theft prevention.
Be Mindful of Workplace Privacy
At a glance, the general rules of video surveillance are fairly simple. You can film within the premises of your own business, as long as the areas under surveillance are public (i.e. no cameras in the bathroom). It’s important to note that while federal law does not prevent video monitoring even when employees do not know about said monitoring or never gave express consent to be monitored at work, state laws may differ on the subject of consent and prior knowledge.
To be more specific regarding the public placement of video surveillance equipment, prior cases have had courts siding with employees in cases of monitoring in bathrooms and locker rooms, and different states have different laws for what an employer is and is not allowed to monitor. If your employees are part of a labor union, said union may have its own set of privacy rules limiting your right to film your employees at work. Be sure to inform yourself on these rules if they do apply to you and your business.
Finally, these issues pertain specifically to video monitoring, not audio recording. Video surveillance with captured audio may be subject to wiretapping and eavesdropping laws, making this a much more difficult area of the law to navigate. Be sure to go over any potential installation of video surveillance technology with a legal professional before deciding to monitor your employees, or before adjusting your surveillance systems.
Place Your Cameras Accordingly
Surveillance cameras are useful, but they have their limitations. They can only record what is within their cone of vision, and there’s a limit to how much you are going to be able to monitor with a single camera.
To protect your business, general rules to follow include keeping cameras within corners pointed at entrances and exits, parking lots, and strategic locations to prevent having a person move from one side of the building to another without being seen on camera. Offices and smaller rooms within the building typically only require one camera to effectively monitor the entire room, as long as it is installed in the corner of the room.
Other tips are to ensure that you keep an eye on restricted areas, as well as the high-traffic areas. These are both the likeliest to pose a risk when it comes to theft, from employees or otherwise.
From there, placement varies immensely on the nature of the business. Convenience stores may keep a camera pointed down the middle of every aisle, for example, with another camera behind the registrar and one pointed at the entrance(s) and exit(s). Consulting with a security expert can be tremendously helpful to avoid improper placement and keep an eye on every important part of the store or building without wasting money.
Technology is your friend. If you are in the business of selling things, and it’s often in the process of selling things that your inventory goes missing, it might be wise to invest in a point of sale (POS) system if you haven’t yet.
Not only will this massively improve overall productivity and reign in a great return on investment, but it allows you to utilize a simple bit of technology to more effectively keep track on what’s coming in and what’s going out, making it harder for potential thieves to fudge the numbers or otherwise hide their trail.
POS systems allow you to monitor what your employees did and when they did it, which can be important when reviewing employee performance, as well. It’s also possible to integrate security cameras with POS systems to keep a closer eye on things.
Finally, take a look at how you’ve structured your business to begin with. By seeing to it that no employee is left alone at all times of business – whether on the sales floor, or in an office – you not only improve productivity, but limit theft. It’s harder for an employee to potentially steal or commit fraud when they’ve got someone else around who isn’t likely to risk their future in the same way.
Instead of dividing major tasks by giving one individual sole authority over something as important as financials, split the tasks between several people. Make sure more than one person oversees payroll, bank reconciliations, accounts payable/receivable, and so on.
As an employer, part of your job is being an effective leader – not only for the people you hire, but for the business itself. That also means recognizing the immense responsibility you hold towards the business, as every action ultimately reflects onto you. It’s important to be lenient when the context calls for it, but issues such as theft are irreconcilable. And as much as it may pain you to have your trust compromised, employee theft is part of the risk of running a business. That does not mean you shouldn’t do everything in your power to minimize that risk, and save yourself and your business a significant amount of grief through an effective surveillance system, and a proper plan of action.