San Bruno, CA asked in Employment Law and Employment Discrimination for California

Q: Can I legally record a staff meeting (I'm the manager) or have someone sit I with me (witness)

My boss hired his step-daughter and I'm the manager. This girl has yelled at everyone at staff meetings, customers have complained of cussing and rudeness towards them by her, employees have been harassed by her. I've complained to the owners verbally and In writing and they continue to brush it off with not even so much as a write up. It has become completely hostile. They want to hold an after-hours meeting with my boss, his wife?, the step daughter (employee), and me (manager). I feel as if I'm going to be verbally abused at this meeting and I want to know what my rights are at this point. Can I record the meeting, ask someone to accompany me? I need answers

3 Lawyer Answers
Brad S Kane
Brad S Kane
Answered
  • Employment Law Lawyer
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: You do not have the right to record the meeting without the other participants consent. California is a 2 party consent state.

Similarly, you can ask to bring a witness, but you do not have the right to do so. (Some union collective bargaining agreement do provide this right.)

I suggest that you put your concerns in writing before the meeting, so that if you are terminated you have proof of complaints. You should speak with an employment attorney to make sure you cover all your bases in your written complaint.

Neil Pedersen
Neil Pedersen
Answered
  • Employment Law Lawyer
  • Westminster, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: First, there is nothing in your post to suggest any unlawful conduct is occurring in your workplace. It is not unlawful for an employer to allow bullying, favoritism, rudeness or cussing in the workplace. Although that kind of environment may feel hostile to you in the plain English meaning of that word, that is not the kind of hostile work environment that is legally actionable.

Second, Penal Code section 632 makes it a misdemeanor crime and a civil wrong to audio record someone who is engaging in what they believed to be a confidential communication. More would need to be known about the circumstances of each time you would desire to record a conversation to see if that discussion would qualify for the Section 632 prohibitions.

That said, the utility of the recording diminish significantly when you understand that the conduct you want to record is not unlawful. To be safe it would be better to NOT record others who are not made aware of your recording.

Good luck to you.

Louis George Fazzi
Louis George Fazzi
Answered
  • Employment Law Lawyer
  • Jess Ranch, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Since this will be an after hours staff meeting including the boss's wife and the step-daughter and your boss, I believe you have the right to advise everyone, before the meeting begins, that you intend to make a permanent record of the meeting either by audio or video so you can accurately keep track of the meeting and everything said. Since it does not appear that this meeting is intended to be confidential (i.e., why bring in the boss's wife), then the other participants shouldn't be able to argue otherwise. Of course, you will probably put everyone on edge at that point, but at least you can insist that you need a permanent and accurate record to make sure nothing untoward will take place.

You can also repeat your claim of a hostile and abusive working environment at this meeting, so be prepared to show all the evidence and each incident which you believe supports your claims on that issue, and advise everyone that it is for this reason that you think the meeting should be recorded.

If you intend to go through with this, you may want to bring in the employee witnesses so they can make their statements as well. Make sure you are well prepared.

Then, be prepared to lose your job. But you would be within your rights.

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