A group of federal workers claimed in a suit filed here yesterday that their privacy was invaded when an office meeting in which they participated was videotaped without their expressed consent.
According to the suit filed in U.S. District Court, the 24 hearings and appeals analysts of the Social Security Administration's Bureau of Hearings and Appeals were discussing the office's promotion policy with a personnel officer when they noticed the camera.
The meeting, which occurred at 4040 N. Fairfax Dr. in Arlington last Sept. 23, was called by the personnel officer after a decision had been made to downgrade the positions of about 170 appeals and hearing analysts, according to an agency official.
The top level for such a position now is a GS-13. The new policy would make the top level a GS-12, but would not result in the downgrading of any present employes, the official said.
Participants in the meeting at which the new policy was discussed said it included "heated exchanges" and said the existence of the tape of such a meeting could be used "to identify critics" of the bureau's top officials. The workers who sued yesterday said they "suffer intimidation and fear of reprisal in regard to dealings with bureau officials."
R. Brian Makoff, the personnel officer who called the meeting and who is a defendant in the suit, said in a telephone interview yesterday that the videotape camera and audio equipment were in full view of the audience throughout the meeting and that two people were operating the machinery.
He said he had the meeting filmed because one of the employes' coworkers could not be present and wanted to know what happened, and because the meeting was being held in a room where the videotape facilities were available.
He said the camera was set up at the bank of the room and that the most visible person on the tape was him as he answered questions about the promotion policy. The union representing the employes has a copy of the tape, and the Social Security Administration has offered to destroy its copy, Makoff added.