This week The Oregonian carried the extraordinary story of a man who “was arraigned on 34 charges for allegedly recording colleagues at the Banana Republic Factory Store” on NE Cascades Parkway near the Portland airport. The 34-year-old allegedly placed hidden cameras in the women’s restroom at the store and recorded video of dozens of partially naked women, including children.
What is especially shocking is the revelation that the man had faced similar allegations at his previous job as a pharmacist with Kaiser Permanente. Last month the suspect “was arraigned on 71 similar charges for allegedly recording 51 men and women using the unisex bathrooms and changing rooms at the Kaiser Permanente facility” on Portland’s Northeast 138thAvenue. The man was fired after another employee “found a camera” in one of the bathrooms.
The article notes that some of the employees from the Banana Republic store are considering a civil suit. Two areas bear particularly close examination. First, there is the question of whether the Banana Republic store did everything it could to prevent this man, or anyone else, from invading employees’ privacy by installing secret cameras in the restroom. We need to know more about the nature of the cameras, where they were positioned, how they operated and how long they were in place. Most importantly, we need to consider what the store could have done to prevent this and other forms of employee misconduct. The U.S. Department of Labor’s website on workplace health and safety (see link below) lays out the standards all employers are expected to uphold. Difficult questions clearly need to be asked about how the store managed to get itself into this position in the first place.
Second, we need to ask how this man was hired at all. How was this man able to find another job so easily after being dismissed by Kaiser? People need to know that their employer will take every reasonable precaution to protect them from predatory co-workers, something Banana Republic clearly failed to do. It is important to ask why – we must ensure that nothing similar happens again – but also to ask how the company should account for its failings in this particular case.
As a Portland lawyer practicing in both Oregon and Washington this is a case I will be watching closely. Federal law makes it clear that businesses have an obligation to protect both their employees and customers from dangerous and abusive situations. With the suspect now facing over 100 counts of abuse, the question is whether accountability will be enforced. The fact that injuries to children were also involved makes this case especially serious. According to The Oregonian the suspect may face child pornography charges. That fact alone should spur state and local authorities pay particularly close attention.
Oregon.gov: Technical Assistance for Employers
U.S. Department of Labor: Workplace Safety & Health