Anheuser-Busch may have to reinstate workers it dismissed after catching inappropriate behaviour using hidden cameras. A federal appeals court said yesterday (5 July) that the company had committed an unfair labour practice when it installed the cameras at one of its St. Louis brewing facilities in 1998 before bargaining with the union, Brewers and Maltsters, Local Union No. 6, as required under federal labour laws.

In 1998, the brewer dismissed five workers after the cameras caught them smoking marijuana at the facility. Another seven employees were observed sleeping or urinating on the building's roof, and were made to sign "last chance" agreements saying that they would be sacked if caught violating company rules in the future.

An earlier ruling, saying that the employees were not entitled to reinstatement or back pay on account of their behaviour, has been overruled, as the court believes AB would not have known about the misconduct had it not been for the unlawfully-installed cameras.

AB has countered that the cameras were a matter of internal security and that employees had no expectation of privacy in the elevator motors room and the rooftop, which were not official break areas.