For various reasons during your career, you may find it beneficial to record conversations with your supervisor and other colleagues. Perhaps you are detail-oriented and like to have a paper trail to review, but your co-worker prefers face-to-face chats instead of email chains. Or, maybe you have been the victim of workplace bullying, discrimination or harassment, and you want to ensure your company’s human resources department has ample reasons to believe you.
In instances like these, it might seem logical to use your cellphone to make a digital recording and prove who said what. However, if you live in California, you should think twice about doing this. Here’s what you need to know.
California Is a Two-Party Consent State
In most U.S. states, it’s legal under federal law to make an audio or video recording, even if the person recording is the only one who’s aware of it. But California is one of a small handful of states that has enacted what’s known as a two-party consent law. That means recording a conversation in person, over the phone or via online platforms without getting permission from all participants is illegal.
California Penal Code Section 631 and Section 632 make it a misdemeanor to secretly record a conversation without consent from everyone involved. This crime is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and/or one year in state prison.
While it’s rare for the police to track you down and arrest you if you record a conversation without securing permission first, the person or people you recorded may still opt to press charges, claiming you violated their privacy. Also, any recording you illegally make won’t be admissible in court, even if you recorded someone confessing to a crime.
What Is a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy?
One exception to the rule about recording conversations involves the place where the interactions happen. For example, if you are talking with your boss or other colleagues somewhere such as a crowded lobby or break room, it’s possible to argue that any recording you make is legal. That’s because conversations in such public locations have no expectation of privacy when anyone passing by might overhear you.
On the other hand, if you are meeting one on one in your supervisor’s office or having a small group gathering to discuss project status updates, you can reasonably expect your conversations to remain private.
Orange County’s Leading Criminal Defense Attorney
If you stand accused of illegally recording a conversation with your boss or other colleagues, or you have violated California’s workplace discrimination or sexual harassment laws, you need an expert attorney who knows all the ins and outs of California’s laws and can confidently represent your case.
Salvatore P. Ciulla has spent more than 35 years building his reputation as a reputable Orange County criminal defense lawyer. To learn more, please get in touch with us to schedule your complimentary consultation.