Union argues hidden camera footage of employees caught having sex was invasion of privacy
Fire Chief David Lind installed a hidden camera to catch employees rifling through his drawers.
He didn’t expect to see them going through each other’s.
Now, eight months after being fired for having sexual relations on duty in the chief’s office, a firefighter and fire services employee are fighting to get back their jobs — not to mention their dignity.
It’s a case that pits an employee’s right to privacy against the specific types of circumstances in which an employer can use surveillance cameras to spy on workers.
“The union does not deny the two employees engaged in the activity recorded in the footage, which the union characterizes as ‘a deeply personal and compromising interaction,'” arbitration chair James Dorsey wrote in his decision.
“The agreed question is whether relevant video footage is to be excluded from the evidence because of the manner in which it was obtained and disclosed by the employer.”
‘His heart skipped a beat’
The arbitration decision paints a picture of a workplace already on edge when Lind was hired in 2016.
A report the year before identified problems in communication and training. And the city retained a retired police chief in 2016 to investigate allegations of “bullying, intimidation and harassment.”
Lind told the arbitration hearing that two union officials told him a story at a Christmas party about how they had distracted a government official in order to remove a document from a meeting.
It’s a conversation the union officials insisted never happened.
Regardless, it all allegedly fed into Lind’s thinking when he found his office filing cabinet unlocked in the spring of 2017.
“He testified his heart skipped a beat because this had never happened before,” Dorsey writes.
When it happened again in September 2017, Lind and his deputy chief “decided to install surreptitious camera surveillance to catch the person.”