Locker Room Legal Issues
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Paul R. Bedard, Esquire
Although most people view a locker room as simply an essential health club amenity, various legal issues involving personal privacy, safety and even potentially illegal discrimination originate from locker room usage and related policies. Whether trying to protect members and guests from voyeurism, the theft of personal belongings or to avoid maintaining a locker room usage policy that may be deemed illegally discriminatory, it pays for health club owners and operators to proactively address these issues.
This article is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. Widely varying laws specific to each jurisdiction prohibit one-size-fits-all recommendations. Please consider these comments as an educational guide to assist you when you consult your own attorney for specific direction.
Illegal Photography or Video Recording
There is no general legal right or justifiable expectation of privacy in public places. However, there are many circumstances in which the law affords a reasonable expectation of privacy. These circumstances include those in which a reasonable person would believe that they could privately undress or when a reasonable person would believe that any individual private area would not be visible to the public, whether in a public or private place. Locker rooms obviously fall beneath this umbrella of legal protection.
In 2004, Congress passed the Video Voyeurism Protection Act to help combat the increasing rates of voyeurism largely associated with increased cell phone camera usage. The federal law applies only in federal jurisdictions such as federal buildings, national parks, etc. However, varying state laws now make voyeurism a punishable crime. For example, where I practice law in Connecticut, one is guilty of voyeurism when: "(1) with malice, such person knowingly photographs, films, videotapes or otherwise records the image of another person (A) without the knowledge and consent of such other person, (B) while such other person is not in plain view, and (C) under circumstances where such other person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, or (2) with intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desire of such person or any other person, such person knowingly photographs, films, videotapes or otherwise records the image of another person (A) without the knowledge and consent of such other person, (B) while such other person is not in plain view, and (C) under circumstances where such other person has a reasonable expectation of privacy." Connecticut classifies voyeurism as a Class D Felony, punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and up to 5 years in jail.
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