Chicken catching organization went too far surveilling employees, B.C.'s privacy commissioner finds
Inappropriate to have employees monitored at workplace for their entire shifts, commissioner says
B.C.'s privacy commissioner says a Fraser Valley chicken catching company went too far in its response to reports of animal abuse by its workers.
In June 2017, the non-profit animal advocacy group Mercy For Animals released an undercover video allegedly showing multiple chicken catchers throwing and hitting the birds, simulating sexual acts with them and letting some birds slowly die on the ground after their injuries.
The SPCA quickly denounced the actions of the workers calling the video "some of the worst animal cruelty and abuse that she had seen in some time."
In response, Elite Services — the chicken catching company at the centre of the controversy — fired five employees, although it later said two had technically been fired before the video's release.
In addition, the company said some of its employees would wear safety vest-mounted cameras at all times in each barn.
In a report released Wednesday, B.C.'s privacy commissioner said that was a step too far.
"It was an inappropriate reaction to a crisis situation," said Acting Information and Privacy Commissioner Drew McArthur.
The privacy commissioner said it initiated this investigation in response to reports in the media the company was implementing continuous video surveillance of their employees.
"It [raised] questions to us whether or not this video surveillance was authorized under our legislation," McArthur said.
Through the investigation process, McArthur said the company stated there were a few reasons it implemented the video surveillance, including using it as a way to repair its damaged public reputation.
"We found that [using video surveillance] was inappropriate and did not serve the purpose," he said. "There were other less privacy-invasive actions they could have taken."
The company made some additional missteps, McArthur said, like not giving employees notice or time to consent. But even with consent, he said, the use of such surveillance tactics needs to be reasonable.
He said he hoped the report will more broadly inform other organizations on the use of surveillance.
"It is inappropriate in general and not reasonable to have employees being monitored at their workplace for their entire shifts," he said.
With files from Megan Thomas