Q. I'm considering instituting a policy at my company that would permit me to record my employees' phone conversations. Can I record employee phone calls without their consent? —P.C., Michigan
A. Given the legal limitations, I suggest searching for another means to achieve your goals. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 severely limits an employer's right to intercept or monitor employee telephone calls at work.
There are some limited exceptions to the prohibition on recording employees' conversations, including when an employee has consented to the monitoring and where business phone calls are being monitored for a business purpose. Just having a policy that states you are recording conversations doesn't equal employee consent. And if you are monitoring calls under the business-purpose exception, you must stop immediately upon discovering that a call is of a personal nature.
In addition to federal law, many states, such as Michigan and Maryland, have stricter laws requiring that both parties to a conversation give their consent before recording is lawful. Remember the trouble Linda Tripp landed in when she didn't tell Monica Lewinsky that she was recording their conversations?
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