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Can I Record a Conversation at Work?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on April 08, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

You can always record a conversation if you let everyone know it is happening and all parties consent. Even if people don't affirmatively agree, when they keep talking to you after you gave them notice, you've received a kind of consent.

But if you want to secretly record someone that is a whole other ball of wax and whether you can do it legally depends on several factors. Let's consider them.

Where Are You?

Laws on recording vary from state to state and -- depending on who is involved in the call and where they're located -- you must consider federal regulations as well. Generally speaking, most states require the consent of one other party to record under wiretapping laws, but some states require that all parties to the conversation agree to the recording.

Whether it is legal to record someone at work depends on a lot of factors then, most notably your state and workplace, and the locations of other parties to the conversation who are subject to the recording. Say you wish to record a talk with a colleague in another state, or several colleagues in several states. Now you need to know the law locally and where every other party is, and keep in mind any federal rules that may apply because you're speaking across state lines. But wait!

Don't Press Record at Work Just Yet

Before your record any conversation at work, it is also important to review your workplace or corporation's policy on this topic. Whole Foods, for example, enacted a policy that barred employees from recording workplace discussion, including in a parking lot or store front.

The rule was challenged by workers but an administrative law judge found the policy complied with the requirements of the National Labor Relations Act. Whole Foods argued that allowing recording would have a chilling effect on communication and exchange, while the workers said that barring recording infringed on protected activities.

Alternative Means

The judge offered Whole Foods employees this alternative, which is worth considering when you do not wish to request consent or if it is not given. You can always take notes while a conversation is happening and request discovery later if you are in a lawsuit.

Recording someone at work in particular can get complicated. Your best bet is to request consent. If you don't get it, grab a notebook and pen and scribble while you chat.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you are having trouble at work and are concerned that you may soon be involved in a lawsuit, or are interested in assessing whether you have a case, consult with an attorney. Get guidance and help. many attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to discuss the situation with you (just don't record your talk without consent!).

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