Hand-Held Devices Make it Easy to Record a Private Conversation — But is it Legal?

Recorded conversations can be extremely powerful evidence in proving a case of discrimination against an employer. As technology continues to advance and hand-held devices get smarter and smaller, it isn’t that difficult to try to catch your employer in the act of discriminating against you.

If you are being harassed at work, you need to be vigilant and collect evidence that can substantiate your case if you decide to make a claim against your employer. However, before you secretly turn on that Smartphone when you meet with your boss to discuss the situation, you should recognize that the law is complex.

Federal and state laws restrict wiretapping or eavesdropping. That means you cannot record a private conversation when the other participant(s) doesn’t know that you are doing so. In New York City, the one-party consent law applies. That is, you can legally record a conversation as long as one other person in the conversation is aware of the recording.

There are a few general points you need to consider before you hit the record button:

  • The law varies by state in regard to recording conversations. So, if you are speaking with people working in other states, you may need to get the permission of some or all of the participants before recording.
  • Many companies have a clearly documented policy that expressly forbids secret recordings. Violation of the policy can serve as grounds for termination.
  • The courts are not unanimous when it comes to the legality of recording a private conversation that specifically deals with discrimination. The recording may or may not be a protected activity.

Contact an experienced New York City attorney to help you understand the complexities of the law and how to use recordings legally to win your case.


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