Laws protecting individuals from having their photo taken very much depend on the situation at hand. For example, in the outdoors and in public there is no “right” to privacy that prohibits photos being snapped, according to PhotoRights.org. Photo permission law allows photographers to take pictures of people in public, although it’s considered good etiquette to ask permission. Co-workers, however, don’t have special privileges that permit them to take photos of colleagues without permission.
Co-workers might be familiar with some aspects of photo permission laws that allow cameras to capture photographs of individuals without requiring authorization. Such laws, however, are applicable only to public spaces such as streets and parks. Your workplace isn’t a public place, and furthermore, some public places are protected when individuals are “reasonably” entitled to privacy. For example, although public restrooms are public, individuals using the restroom should reasonably expect that they not be photographed inside them.
Harassment and Sales
Photography doesn’t necessarily translate to harassment, but in some cases it can be considered as such. PhotoRights.org states that people who believe their rights have been violated must document two separate instances for the matter to be considered harassment; at that point, it’s possible to get a restraining order. If your co-worker is taking photos and then posting them on social media sites along with derogatory statements, this is not only unprofessional but could be illegal. Photo permission laws also prohibit the sale of your photo without permission, so your co-worker can’t attempt to sell workplace photos containing your image without approval.
What to Look For
Traditional cameras are easy to spot in the workplace, but co-workers might be using more subtle gadgets to capture colleagues unawares. Most cell phones contain cameras, and other items, such as wristwatches, can also contain cameras. Taking your photo with any of these items in the workplace without your permission is unacceptable.
Involving the Boss
If your co-worker continues to take photos of you at work without your permission, contact the human resources department and file a complaint. Although management might speak with the co-worker in question, they’re not necessarily required to report the conversation back to you, according to Ask a Manager.org. If you notice the co-worker taking your photo and others are present, you can also clearly state, “Jim, please stop taking my photo without my permission. It bothers me and I need you to stop.” Having others witness the situation can help build your case when filing future complaints, if necessary. Keep the conversation’s tone professional to avoid creating a confrontational scene.
- Stanford University: The Basics of Getting Permission
- CBS News.com: 8 Ways to Stop a Coworker From Sabotaging Your Reputation
- CNET News.com: How an IT Guy Used His Watch to Take Sneaky Pics of Co-Workers
- Ask a Manager.org: My Co-Worker Is Taking Cell Phone Photos of Us During Staff Meetings
- Ask a Manager.org: My Co-Worker Is Covertly Taking Photos of Me and Mocking My Appearance on Facebook
Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.