$820K Verdict Follows Misuse of Security Cameras

Employees win case against retailer that had hidden camera where they changed clothes


ATHENS, Ga. --

An Athens-Clarke Superior Court jury has awarded judgments to four women who worked at a makeup counter in a Belk store and claimed store security videotaped them changing clothes.

Two women who worked full time for Makeup Art Cosmetics, a private contractor in the department store in Athens, were awarded $230,000 each in the decision Thursday. Two other part-time employees for the cosmetics company will receive $180,000.

The jury decided to award the money after a weeklong trial.

Belk managers installed a hidden camera in a stockroom in 2005, catching the women on tape while they changed clothes before and after shifts. Lawyers for the company argued that it installed the camera to catch thieves, and said the employees should have known it was there.

But attorneys for the women said no one told them about the camera. They blamed managers for failing to remove the camera after taping the women undressing and even after thefts from the stockroom dropped.

One of the attorneys, Andy Nelms of Montgomery, Alabama, says the jury's finding will serve as a warning to other companies that might film employees without their knowledge.

All the Belk managers who were responsible for setting up the camera inside the stockroom ceiling have since been transferred to other stores. Three of the four plaintiffs also have moved on to other jobs.

Belk has 45 days to appeal the decision.