Dec. 25, 2009 -- A Pennsylvania Walmart Supercenter videotaped employees and customers in a unisex bathroom, several former and current Walmart employees alleged in a lawsuit filed this week.
Seven former and current employees from the Tire and Lube department at the Walmart in Easton, Pa., filed a lawsuit in county court against the Arkansas-based corporation and four local managers Dec. 21.
Several employees discovered an "off-the-shelf" video camera in a store bathroom March 31, 2008, according to the court filing. The unisex bathroom, which also served as a changing room, was used by employees and customers. Customers and employees were not notifed of the surveillance, according to the court filing.
"I am incredulous that anyone would think that it's appropriate conduct for any reason to photograph people in a changing room and bathroom," said Erv McLain, the plaintiffs' attorney.
Walmart said two workers were responsible for the camera.
"Two associates were terminated for placing a camera in an associate dressing room bathroom," Walmart spokesman Greg Rossiter said. "When store management learned of the camera, it was immediately removed."
The company declined further comment.
According to the court filing, the camera was installed by Walmart's loss-prevention unit.
The camera was used to monitor employees for possible theft and it is unclear how long the surveillance took place, McLain said. None of the plaintiffs, however, were accused of stealing from the store.
A store manager acknowledged the existence of the surveillance camera only after employees produced a photo of the camera, McLain said.
"The filming of anyone, including employees, is not something that is unheard of in the industry," McLain said. "But to do it in a changing room and bathroom is totally unprecedented and it could border on criminal activity."
The retailer's "Security and Privacy" policy states that at "some stores and clubs [Walmart] may record your presence on security monitors for safety and security purposes," according to court documents.
Fired After Complaining?
McLain said some of his clients are "still clearly shaken by what occurred."
Three of the plaintiffs were terminated after complaining to store management about video surveillance, McLain said.
Of the remaining plaintiffs, one worker has quit and three men continue to work at the store.
Walmart declined to comment on the three terminations.
The lawsuit, which is seeking more than $50,000 in damages, was filed after the parties failed to reach an out-of-court agreement, McLain said.
Among its allegations, the suit claims violations of federal and state wiretapping laws, invasion of employees' and customers' privacy, wrongful discharge and violation of worker and civil rights practices.