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Can You Legally Record Employees at Work?

A recent ruling from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has upheld Whole Foods' ban on recording employees at work.

The ban, which is contained in Whole Foods General Information Guide, states that it's a violation to record conversations with a tape recorder (or other recording device) unless there was prior approval.

What did the judge conclude regarding this policy? Also, can you legally record employees at your place of work?

Whole Foods Policy Does Not Chill Rights

Whole Foods' policy, which was meant to encourage spontaneous and honest dialogue, was upheld because the judge found that policy overall did not violate any rights of employees to engage in protected concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act.

According to the ruling, there was no violation because the policy only pertained to activities with a recording device. Employees were still free to converse with other employees despite, or if you buy Whole Foods' reasoning, because of the recording ban.

Employers Monitoring Activity

Just because Whole Foods has decided to ban recording does not mean that monitoring or recording your employees is illegal. Employees have a right to engage in protected concerted activity. So long as an employer's policy doesn't violate an employee's right to freely discuss wages or working conditions, monitoring employees can be completely legal.

Here are some common legal ways to monitor or record your employees at work:

  • Video surveillance. Employers can legitimately use video cameras at work for security purposes (preventing theft, for example), as long as employees are notified.
  • Checking in. Checking in with your employees may not involve any technology, but it can be a great way to monitor individual employees and encourage effective communication. Having regular one-on-ones is also a great way to maintain a good employer-employee relationship.
  • Email surveillance. Generally, employees have very little privacy rights when it comes to their emails at work. Especially if the computer belongs to the employer, the employer can monitor their employees' emails, as long as they have a legitimate business reason for doing so.

Legally recording and monitoring your employees can be complicated. It's best to consult an experienced attorney if you have specific concerns.

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