The Pittsford, N.Y. club, which will host the 2013 PGA Championship, reached an agreement with the state Attorney General to end the investigation. As part of the settlement, the club did not admit to any laws being broken and promised to not install cameras in locker-room areas in the future.
Seeking to close an untimely and unfortunate chapter in its esteemed history as it prepares to host the 2013 PGA Championship, Oak Hill Country Club, Pittsford, N.Y. (suburban Rochester) has agreed to pay the state of New York $45,000 to end an investigation into hidden cameras in its locker rooms, the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle reported.
Under the terms of a settlement that was announced on June 13 by the club and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Oak Hill will cover legal fees and costs related to the inquiry, and also establish a fund of up to $20,000 to compensate employees who may have been videotaped in a state of undress.
The club’s former general manager, Eric Rule, who had the cameras installed, also agreed to pay the state $5,000 for legal fees and the cost of the investigation.
The settlement, which was signed and dated in the first week of June, effectively ended the investigation and the club’s legal efforts to quash subpoenas seeking testimony from club officials and a wide array of club documents concerning the cameras, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.
Under the agreement, the club neither admitted to any guilt nor to any laws being broken and promised to “not install cameras in such areas in the future.”
New York’s state labor and general business laws prohibit the installation of video cameras, with some exceptions, in rooms designated for changing clothes.
“To videotape people without their knowledge in a locker room is not only unlawful and unjustified, it’s an extreme violation and invasion of privacy,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “We are pleased that under the terms of this settlement, the practice of using undercover cameras will cease and those impacted will receive restitution.”
Oak Hill’s President, Edward Kay, said in a statement that the club’s Board of Governors neither approved nor were aware of the cameras when they were operational.
“Further, while we believe no laws were violated, we determined that it was time to move on from this matter, agree to a settlement, avoid the continued costs of litigation, and focus on a bright future,” Kay said.
The investigation came to light in February, when the Democrat and Chronicle reported that Oak Hill had gone to court to dismiss the subpoenas (http://www.clubandresortbusiness.com/2012/02/16/new-york-attorney-general-investigates-locker-room-cameras-at-oak-hill-cc/).
The state opened its investigation in November after receiving complaints and determined that Rule had installed two cameras in the men’s locker room and later one in a locker room reserved for male and female employees. Rule and the club have said he did so after instances of theft.
After the reports about the cameras came to light, Rule subsequently resigned from his position. Kay originally said that the cameras had only been operational for a three-week stretch during an overnight shift, when members were unlikely to be using the facilities. He then recanted that statement and apologized to members in February, after court papers revealed that the camera in the men’s locker room filmed around the clock for two months.
In a statement announcing the settlement, Schneiderman’s office said the camera “captured people changing out of their clothes and entering the showers.” But the statement went on to acknowledge that no images of members exist and that “it could not be confirmed if in fact anyone had been recorded changing in the men’s locker room.”
The cameras in the employees’ locker rooms filmed between the hours of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. from November 13 to December 13. Employees on the evening and night shift were recorded while they changed their clothes, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.
Because state law allows for employees to seek damages, employees may receive a $250 payment from the compensation fund that the club will establish. To be eligible, employees must file a claim asserting that they stripped to their undergarments in the room during the days and hours in question.
It was unclear how many employees, if any, would be eligible to file claims.