GRAFTON (CBS) – While working his overnight shift at Wyman-Gordon, Mark Ferguson noticed something bizarre sitting on a shelf above his desk.
Upon further inspection, Ferguson realized a hidden camera had been pointed in his direction.
Before long, supervisors at the forging company in Grafton had summoned Ferguson to an office and showed surveillance video of the eight-year employee sleeping on the job.
A termination letter the I-Team obtained said the video showed Ferguson, “making a bed out of blankets and then removing his shoes, shirt and pants prior to falling asleep.”
But little did management know Ferguson had discovered the hidden camera and taken it home for a closer look. The first clip he saw on his computer screen revealed two human resource employees setting up the camera on the shelf and positioning it toward Ferguson’s office space.
One important detail: the employees could be heard discussing the camera placement in a clip Ferguson shared with the I-Team. The hidden camera had audio.
“I thought this has to be against the law,” Ferguson said. “This wasn’t professional surveillance. This was spying.”
Ferguson believes he was targeted because of his campaign for union president of Local 2285 United Steel Workers. He wonders if the camera captured his conversations with colleagues about union politics. Or phone calls with his girlfriend.
“You feel violated,” Ferguson said. “I don’t think anyone wants their phone conversations heard.”
Ferguson brought the camera to the Grafton Police Department. After several months, detectives moved forward with criminal complaints against three Wyman-Gordon employees in the human resource department, the I-Team confirmed.
In January, a clerk magistrate in Westborough District Court will determine if the evidence warrants wiretapping charges against the employees who placed the hidden camera.
A spokesman for Wyman-Gordon told the I-Team the company would not discuss the issue, calling it a personnel matter.
Boston attorney Patricia Washienko, an expert in employment law, said if the camera recorded audio without consent, it would be a clear violation of Massachusetts statute.
“Your boss can hide a camera at work,” Washienko explained. “But audio is the game-changer.”
This summer, two dozen police officers at Washington D.C.’s VA Medical Center filed a federal lawsuit, alleging their bosses installed hidden camera and audio devices in several areas of the workplace.
The pending litigation claims at least one of the employees faced disciplinary action from evidence captured on the devices.
Washienko said the cases should serve as a reality check for employees that their boss is likely keeping an eye on them in most areas of the workplace.
The attorney said courts tend to side with employers, who have legitimate business concerns of monitoring productivity, workplace safety, or guarding against theft.
Restrooms and locker rooms are off limits, but most other areas of an office are likely fair game for video surveillance.
“Privacy expectations are a lot narrower than most people think,” Washienko said. “Certainly far smaller than most employees would imagine.”
Ferguson is now fighting to get his job back through the arbitration process. He argues the evidence used to fire him was gathered illegally.
Ferguson also filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging the hidden camera tampered with union activity.
“They knew what they were doing,” Ferguson exclaimed. “But they never thought I would find the camera. And they would be dumb enough to turn the camera on while they were setting it up.”