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Thursday, March 19, 2015

S.F. Zoo Employees Accuse Management of Snooping on Them With Remote Radios

Posted By on Thu, Mar 19, 2015 at 11:25 AM

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San Francisco Zoo workers have retained an attorney after learning that upper management allegedly had been spying on them using remote microphones that documented their private conversations, according to the union. 

Tim Jenkins, a labor representative with Teamsters 856, tells SF Weekly that they found out a week ago about the microphones that are linked to radios zookeepers are required to carry on them. The radios were given to employees as a safety precaution after Tatiana the tiger escaped her cage in 2007 and mauled 17-year-old Carlos Eduardo Sousa Jr. to death. The radios contain panic buttons that if pushed will record a scene via microphone, Jenkins says. 

But turns out, some of the top executives had some form of spyware installed on the radios which allowed them to listen in on their employees' conversations, whether they were work-related or private, Jenkins says. 
"How we found out was interesting," Jenkins says. "A non-union manager came to one of our union stewards as a whistleblower." The manager reportedly explained that he witnessed upper manager eavesdropping on another manager's conversation via radio. 

"It's super creepy, and wrong, and possibly illegal," Jenkins says. 

The union called a meeting with the management team and point-blank asked them if these remote microphones were enabled on their radios. "They said 'yes,' but they claimed it had never been used before," Jenkins says. 

Tanya Peterson, executive director of the San Francisco Zoo, released a statement to the press saying the allegations are false. 

"Zoo management has no interest in monitoring conversations of its employees," she says. "Safety is a top priority for the Zoo, and this new radio system was installed to ensure zoo employees are working in the safest possible environment. Emergency monitoring on the Zoo's new radio system was a vendor feature designed to assist with medical and safety emergencies. When I was made aware of the radio's capabilities, this feature was disabled."

The union isn't satisfied with that statement, especially since no investigation is being conducted by Zoo management. At this juncture, the union has retained an attorney who is looking into whether privacy laws had been violated. "It's odd that there was this feature and nobody knew about it," Jenkins says. 

The Union is holding a press conference later today where we're sure more stories and details will be circulated. 
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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Bio:
Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.

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