The Ontario Federation of Labour claims proudly on its public website that it represents 54 member unions and a total of one million workers.
But that didn’t stop it completely violating its own employees’ trust and privacy by spying on them with a secret camera behind its reception desk.
The camera – which was discovered in July – faced the front doors and reception desk of the OFL, where employees were oblivious they were being watched.
A preliminary internal investigation reported on by The Star found it had been secretly recording their every action for years, and possibly as far back as 1997.
A memo from OFL secretary-treasurer Nancy Hutchison, who conducted the internal investigation, was damning when detailing the effects it had had on employees, including making them “visibly upset” and even “distraught”.
“Many of the federation staff are now experiencing anxiety and stress due to this discovery,” The Star reports Hutchison’s memo said.
One member had been forced to leave work and was “unable to continue working” due to a “loss of privacy, trust and feeling of being violated”.
Toronto employment lawyer Natalie MacDonald told The Star employers need to be able to establish a legitimate reason to install secret cameras.
She warned any employers that they need to be acting in ‘good faith’, and that matters that could warrant such an action might include recurring theft.
“If they don’t have a good reason and they are just trying to spy on their employees, that’s when you get into an argument that it could be a poisoned workplace, and you could find the employer being sued.”
The camera was installed next to an exit sign near the reception desk, behind the symbol of a woman typically used to show the location of a women’s washroom.
The Star reports that the discovery of the device has led to a series of claims and counter-claims from current and former presidents over who had installed the camera, or knew about its existence.
Current OFL president Sid Ryan said he knew cameras existed for security reasons that he had no knowledge of the secret camera.