Herald-Dispatch accused of spying by employee in suit

Special to HuntingtonNews.Net

by Lawrence J. Smith

A Cabell County man is accusing his employer, a Huntington newspaper, of spying on him while on the job.

The Huntington Herald-Dispatch is named as a co-defendant in an invasion of privacy suit brought by Charles Watts.  In his complaint filed Dec. 20 in Cabell Circuit Court, Watts, a Huntington resident, last year discovered a hidden camera in an area where support employees both work, and change their clothes.

In his complaint, Watts says on Dec. 21, 2012 he was changing clothes in the Herald-Dispatch’s machine shop which he, and other maintenance employees used as a locker room.  In the course of changing clothes, Watts “discovered a video camera in the Machine Shop hidden within a smoke detector.”

Sometime thereafter, Watts says he confronted both David Hamilton, the newspaper’s production manager, and Ed Dawson, its publisher, about the hidden camera.  After watching footage of him in his underwear, Watts claims Hamilton apologized, and said he forgot the machine shop doubled as a locker room.

However, in his complaint Watts alleges Hamilton knew the maintenance employees changed their clothes in the shop as, on an unspecified date, “Hamilton actually walked into [it] just before…Watts was about to change.”  Also, he alleges his direct supervisor, Jeff Hutchinson, knew about the camera, but warned Hamilton not to place it there “because employees used that room for comfort and changing.”

According to the suit, the camera was placed in the machine shop in an effort “to discover whether employees were stealing tools.”

On a date not specified, Watts says following discovery of the hidden camera, Hutchinson “created another room for the maintenance employees to change and use for comfort.”  However, Watts claims knowing he was secretly recorded has “greatly impacted” both he, and his wife, Denise, who is listed as a co-plaintiff in the suit.

Both Hamilton, and the Herald-Dispatch’s former owner, Champion Industries, are named as co-defendants in the suit. In addition to invasion of privacy, the Wattses make claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, loss of consortium and violation of  state Code 21-3-20, which prohibits employers from monitoring the activities of employees in an area designated for their health, personal comfort or to safeguard their possessions, against them.

The Wattses seek unspecified damages, interest, attorneys fees and court costs.  They are represented by Huntington attorney Abraham Saad.


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