Can I Secretly Record My Boss at Work?
| Read Time: 2 minutes | Discrimination

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In the complex world of workplace rights, the question of secretly recording conversations with your boss emerges as a significant legal and ethical dilemma.

Key Takeways

  • In California, a “two-party consent” state, secretly recording conversations without consent is illegal.
  • A reasonable expectation of privacy generally applies in private settings, making unauthorized recordings inadmissible in court.
  • Secretly recording a private conversation is a misdemeanor crime in California, with potential jail time and fines.
  • Before attempting to record at work, consult with experienced employment attorneys to avoid legal repercussions and gather evidence lawfully.

Is It Illegal to Record Conversations with My Boss or Coworkers?

A common question that we get from clients is whether they can secretly record conversations or calls with co-workers, their boss, or HR.

California is a “two-party consent” state, which means that it can be illegal to secretly record conversations in person, over the phone, or through video chat if the other participant(s) also live in a “two-party consent” state. You would need the other party’s consent and permission to legally record a conversation. 

If the conversation between the parties is confidential or if parties have a “reasonable expectation” of privacy, then recording the conversation without permission or consent can be a breach of that privacy and will unlikely be allowed as evidence in court. 

How is a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy Defined?

While every situation is different, in general, people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy if they are talking in a public place where others might overhear them or if they are told that the conversation is being recorded. On the other hand, co-workers probably have a reasonable expectation of confidentiality in conversations that occur in a private office or another location where other people cannot overhear them. 

What About Zoom Calls Where Video Recording Is Turned On?

If you are in a Zoom call where the video recording function is turned on, you can probably record this conversation. If someone from your employer is recording you, you probably can record the call on your phone. 

Is Secretly Recording a Conversation a Crime in California?

Secret recording of a private conversation in California is a misdemeanor crime. If you are convicted of secretly recording a private conversation you can be sentenced to up to a year in jail and fined up to $2,500 per recording. The person who was recorded can also sue you for $5,000 per recording or the damages that they suffered as a result of the recording. 

Recordings that violate the law also may be inadmissible in your case, meaning you may not be able to introduce them to support your claims. By recording your boss, you are putting yourself at legal risk with no guarantee it will help you in litigation. 

What Should I Do If I Want to Record at Work?

If you are experiencing harassment, discrimination, or other illegal conduct, and you feel that recording your conversations can provide you with evidence, you should first talk to our experienced employment attorneys. We can help you gather the evidence that you need to support your claims without breaking the law.

Schedule a free consultation to discuss your employment law case.

Author Photo

Julian Burns King graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and founded King & Siegel in 2018. As head of the Firm’s discrimination and harassment practice areas, she champions the rights of working parents and victims of workplace discrimination and harassment. She has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers annually since 2018 and has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of her clients.

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