If you have ever been in a situation where your boss constantly screams at you, demeans you, retracts statements or simply brazenly lies, then you’ve probably felt the urge to – well, do many things, including recording evidence of his tantrums, vituperation or false statements. One question we hear over and over is, “Can I record my boss at work?” Recording a conversation with your boss without his knowledge or consent can have serious legal ramifications depending on your state’s recording laws. It is best to speak with an attorney or licensed legal professional for advice on your state’s specific consent laws in relation to recording conversations.
Poor Behavior vs. Hostile Work Environment
Before we go any further into the legal side of this issue, it is extremely important that you understand the difference in poor behavior and a hostile work environment and legitimate circumstances for recording a conversation. If your reason for recording the conversation is to support a legal claim or internal claim of discrimination or a hostile work environment, then you must understand the legal definition of such and how the courts view this. For instance, there is no law stating your boss cannot be a jerk. Sure, it would be nice if he or she was not a jerk, but they are not breaking the law – UNLESS they are jerk because they are motivated by prejudices and you can show tangible evidence of such prejudice. If you cannot show valid reasons for recording the conversation, you may be putting yourself at serious risk for legal prosecution by your employer.
One Party Consent Laws
Federal law does permit you to record a conversation under the one-party consent rule and in a ‘Whistleblower’ context if your state law allows it. The one-party consent rule means that if one party of the conversation has given permission to be recorded, then it is lawful. In this case, you would be the ‘one-party’ who has given consent and you must be a part of the recorded conversation. However, you must validate that you had a legitimate reason for recording the conversation. There are currently 38 states which permit one-party consent recordings, including New Jersey and New York.
Two Party Consent
If you live in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Florida, New Hampshire, Illinois, Connecticut, Michigan, Maryland, Washington, Montana, California or Nevada, then you are subject to the two-party consent law or all-parties consenting. This requires that all parties involved in the recording must consent to the recording before it is lawful. While there are varying degrees of the law as it relates to recording phone conversations versus in-person, they are usually similar in nature. If you are not explicitly clear on your state’s laws regarding the recording of conversations, you should speak with an attorney to discuss your concerns.
It Gets Complicated
Recording your boss at work is a much more complex legal issue than it appears. If you feel you are being discriminated against or are subject to a hostile work environment, it is in your best interest to speak with an employment law attorney for legal advice prior to initiating such tactics. Make sure you are on the right side of the law first and legal counsel can subsequently guide you in the proper steps to exposing and discrimination and hostile work environment. Talk to our New Jersey Employment Lawyers to learn more and see if using a recording in court makes sense in your scenario.