Cell phones are everywhere, and now smart phones with their apps have more functions than many computers. One of those functions is the ability to record without anyone knowing that they are being recorded. In the workplace, such actions can cause concerns as managers and supervisors frequently feel that employees are recording their conversations and will be able to edit what they said to their detriment. A recent Connecticut Superior Court decision does not solve the problem of how to stop the unknown recording, but instead, recognized the potential for managers to sue employees.
Here was the scenario: several employees were upset at work. They met with their managers and without telling them, recorded their conversations related to safety in the workplace. The employee was fired, and then in a federal law suit, he claimed that his discharge violated a safety statute. In discovery, he produced a transcript of the conversations he had secretly recorded.
In response to learning about the secret recording, the employer and the managers sued the employee who made the recordings. They alleged that the recordings were made without permission and that they invaded upon their right to privacy. They further alleged that the former employee’s conduct was highly offensive and objectionable, and caused the company and the managers to suffer damages. In response, the former employee sought to have the case thrown out. However, the court found that the complaint alleged sufficient facts that the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and that secret recording of an in-person workplace conversation would be highly offensive.
While the company and managers have not won a judgment, they now have the right to continue their lawsuit, to prove their allegations, and to seek to recover from the former employee for his actions. Employers concerned that their meetings are being secretly recorded can take solace in this avenue for relief, but should also recognize and even assume that their conversations are being recorded. Whether the recording will justify a lawsuit is a decision that will have to be made when more facts are known, but care in what is said is a precaution worth taking.