Laws vary on whether recording is allowed
With the advent of pocket-sized recorders, sophisticated cell phones, and other covert recording devices, a growing number of employees — whether disgruntled or not — are secretly recording conversations in and outside the workplace in the hope of catching their employers “in the act.” After all, secret recordings have paid off in the past. You may recall the disgruntled Texaco employee whose secretly recorded conversation of executives making what appeared to be racist comments resulted in a then-record $176 million settlement in a race discrimination suit.
Both federal and state laws place restrictions on wiretapping and eavesdropping. These laws generally apply to situations where one party listens in on the conversations of others without their knowledge and have been used to regulate electronic recordings of both telephone conversations and in-person interviews or meetings.
As a general matter, the ability to secretly record a conversation initially turns on whether or not a reasonable expectation of privacy can be attached to the conversation. If there is no expectation of privacy to the conversation, any party to the communication (and in some cases any non-party) is generally free to hit the record button.
Twelve states — California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington — generally prohibit individuals from recording conversations unless all parties to the communication consent to the recording. These states are typically referred to as “all-party consent” or “two-party consent” states.
The remaining thirty-eight states (including Wisconsin), along with the District of Columbia, are considered “one-party consent” states. In these states, individuals may legally record a conversation to which they are a party so long as one of the parties to the communication consents to the recording. Because the consenting party in these states can also be the individual doing the recording, the conversation may be — and often is — recorded without the knowledge or consent of any other party. This is also the rule under federal law.
By: dmc-admin June 21, 2010 1:00 am