- Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman released a recording on August 12 that, she said, documented the White House chief of staff John Kelly firing her.
- Workplace attorneys and human resource experts told Business Insider that recording at the workplace is “not a very good thing to do.”
- However, it is legal in 38 states and the District of Columbia.
A workplace where folks are secretly recording conversations and meetings is “pretty far gone and dysfunctional,” Heather Bussing, a California-based workplace attorney, told Business Insider.
But we’ve seen it on several occasions in President Donald Trump’s White House.
Many workplaces are now reviewing their own policies on recording meetings and conversations.
“After this whole Omarosa incident, a lot of companies are going to be adopting new policies on [workplace recording],” Cliff Ennico, a Fairfield, Connecticut-based business attorney, told Business Insider.
Across the board, lawyers and experts recommend never recording at the workplace unless you intend on taking your employer to court for being involved in illegal activities.
“Surreptitious recordings in the workplace are generally against most written policies that companies have in place and are certainly against workplace norms,” employment lawyer Mike Delikat, who is a partner at Orrick, said.
“Despite that, in our experience, the existence of a recording has helped parties assert or defend against employment claims that get asserted,” Delikat added.
Is it legal?
In 38 states and the District of Columbia, it’s legal to record conversations that you’re part of. This is what’s called “one-party consent,” meaning at least one person in the conversation consents to the recording.
Other states, like California and Pennsylvania, require “two-party consent” – meaning everyone in the conversation has approved the recording.
If you plan on using this recording in a lawsuit, and you captured it secretly in a “two-party” state, it likely wouldn’t be usable, Bussing said.
And in the case that you’re taking this situation to court, keep in mind you can’t use an edited tape, Raleigh, North Carolina-based human resources consultant Laurie Ruettimann said.
Is it common?
While recordings have become common in Trump’s White House, workplace experts say these recordings only really pop up during the most contentious conversations, like whistleblower cases.
Delikat said his firm usually sees unauthorised recordings from employees who want to make a case against the company later on.
“We see a fair amount of them given that we are defending companies against claims made when individuals are trying to leverage the recording to get a settlement or win a case,” Delikat told Business Insider.
Is it smart?
It may be legal in your state to record a conversation, but it doesn’t mean you’ll be safe at your job if you’re recording conversations. There may be company policies against making secret records, and asking for permission to record conversations communicates distrust.
“It’s not a very good thing to do,” Ennico told Business Insider. “You only do it in very limited situations, like in whistleblowing cases.”
Instead, think of recording conversations as a last-resort choice – for cases where you need to call attention to illegal behaviour like insider trading or sexual harassment.
If there’s nothing expressedly illegal at your company, but you find yourself secretly recording meetings anyways, it’s a sign that something has gone awry.
“A workplace where people have to record each other has much deeper problems,” Bussing told Business Insider. “It’s usually a last resort strategy where employees feel threatened and are trying to put something on the record to protect themselves.”
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