Can we tap company phones to investigate possible theft? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Can we tap company phones to investigate possible theft?

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Q. Our company distributes steel from one of our warehouses. A substantial amount of product has gone missing. We suspect that our warehouse manager is conspiring with one of our former employees to take it, possibly creating a false paper trail to cover the theft. Our camera surveillance is not picking up any irregular activity on the loading dock. We believe the manager may be talking to the ex-employee from his office phone. Can we legally monitor the manager’s phone without violating any privacy rights that he might have?

A. In general, the Illinois Eavesdropping Statute prohibits employers from monitoring the telephone conversations of its employees, even when employers reasonably believe their employees may be stealing from them. Violating the statute can subject the employer to criminal penalties.

However, Illinois law permits a court to authorize law enforcement officials to eavesdrop on conversations in which the court is convinced that a felony is taking place.

Otherwise the only exceptions permitting eavesdropping involve situations in solicitation and customer service situations in which the training or quality assurance purposes of the eavesdropping are announced and both parties to the call consent in advance.

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