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Legally Speaking: I Spy. Can I Use a Nanny Cam to Spy On My Nanny?

 

In our quest to balance our professional lives with motherhood, it is inevitable that all new moms struggle with leaving their child with a babysitter or nanny for the first time.
Any number of horrors can make a new mom virtually paralyzed with fear: What if she ignores the baby’s cries and spends the day with her ear buds in? What if she shakes the baby when the baby cries? Will she invite over her boyfriend for an intense makeout session in my bedroom? What if she decides to try baby yoga? Is she going to snoop through my closet? Or worse, my liquor cabinet? Even if your sitter is a regular Mary Poppins, you might be concerned that she will let the baby sleep too long, or not sleep enough, or put the baby in the bouncer before he’s ready. All of which make the “nanny cam” an appealing tool for the overly anxious new mom.
 
Hiding the camera in Teddy Ruckspin’s overalls is a thing of the past. Technology on this front has advanced to such a degree that you can buy a digital camera for fifty bucks, download a free application for your smart phone and watch the happenings at your home with ease. But, can you do this? Can you install a surveillance camera inside your home and spy on your nanny? The answer is YES.
 
In Michigan, you can install a video surveillance to spy on your nanny. This means that as long as there is no audio recording (audio recording falls under the more complex area of wiretapping and eavesdropping laws), these cameras are perfectly legal. This is because in order to breach a person’s right of privacy, there must be an intrusion into a matter in which a person has a right of privacy by a means or method that is objectionable to a reasonable person. While “window peeping” is actionable, babysitters do not have a right to keep actions while on-the-job private. You have a legitimate interest in your sitter’s actions at your home and therefore there can be no intrusion of privacy, unless you are watching the sitter in an instance where she has a reasonable expectation of privacy, like in the bathroom. Of course, if you think you need to monitor your sitter’s bathroom activity, we might suggest finding a replacement.
 
Of course, once the video surveillance is installed, the inevitable issue becomes one of “tell or not tell.” Do you have a legal duty to tell your nanny that you are spying on her? The answer is NO. However, although not legally necessary, we suggest for you to be upfront about any video surveillance with your nanny anyway, but do not tell her where the cameras are. This will be a great opportunity for you to gauge her reactions. If she feels uncomfortable with the camera or insists on knowing where they are, it may be a sign that she is not the right person for your child.
If she feels comfortable with the camera, make sure to let her know that your goal is not to spy on her, but to monitor your child’s safety and record your child’s cute milestones that you may otherwise miss. She will probably appreciate your candor, and you won’t have to have any awkward conversation later about the fact that you were secretly watching her while she polished off your Oreos. And furthermore, if she knows she is being watched, she may just be extra diligent with your child, which is really the point, right?
 
 
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Raquel Salas and Elizabeth Lueder are attorneys with Avanti Law firm. Visit avantilaw.com to learn more.

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