Sorry, NLRB. Using an iPhone to secretly record a conversation with your boss may be criminal

iPhone voice memo

Remember last month when I told you to short crude oil futures and bet the Broncos to win the Super Bowl about how the National Labor Relations Board concluded that an employer could not maintain a workplace rule that banned employees from recording workplace conversations, absent prior company approval. (More on that here).

Well, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, before you get any bright ideas about secretly recording your boss, you’d better think twice.

Many states have laws requiring two-party consent for recordings. Pennsylvania is one of them. Traditionally, these laws precluded use of a concealed tape recorder to record a conversation, without the consent of the person being recorded. I say a “concealed tape recorder,” because wiretap laws like this one in Pennsylvania were implemented before smartphones.

Damn Daniel! (Sorry, had to slip that in there before the 15 minutes were up. And, no, I don’t get it either).

Even though no one really uses those microcassette recorders anymore, that doesn’t make these wiretap statutes obsolete. Indeed, last Friday, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held here, that using an app on a smartphone, rather than a concealed tape recorder, to surreptitiously record a conversation, is also a violation of Pennsylvania’s wiretap statute. And it just so happens that the recorded conversation involved the defendant and his former boss.

So, let’s not crown the National Labor Relations Board’s credo that workplace recordings promote protected concerted activity just yet. Over time, that may not hold up, especially if the GOP regains the White House and the complexion of the Board subsequently changes. But, in the meantime, even if the current Board requires employers to relax workplace recording bans, remind your workforce that secret recordings could carry criminal penalties.

Image Credit: James Cridland on Flickr.
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