• Monitoring Phone Calls
  • March 7, 2014 | Author: Jennifer A. Shoemaker
  • Law Firm: Underberg & Kessler LLP - Rochester Office
  • A friend called recently wanting to know whether his employer could record phone calls on its business line without its employees’ knowledge. The scenario is this: the employer had a recording for incoming callers that announced that “calls may be recorded for quality assurance.” However, the employees were not aware that their calls were being recorded.

    There are a number of reasons why an employer may wish to monitor or record its employees' telephone conversations, including ensuring quality customer service, training employees, discovering misuse of company phone lines, and investigating complaints.

    However, employers must be aware of the laws governing such call monitoring—and take steps to ensure they act within the law. Recording phone calls falls under wiretapping or eavesdropping statutes, and in New York, one party to the call must consent to the recording. If there is no consent, the employer may be criminally liable. As such, the safest bet is to inform employees in a written phone-monitoring policy that their telephone conversations over company phones may be monitored or recorded as part of normal business operations. Even better, ask them to sign a consent form.

    Even though New York requires consent of only one party, there are many instances where the caller on the other end of the line is in another state. Third parties, such as customers or clients, should be informed of the monitoring by providing a verbal announcement at the beginning of incoming calls to notify them of the monitoring policy and the purpose for the monitoring. If monitoring outbound calls, employees must recite a similar announcement when making calls.

    So in the above scenario, the employer is likely acting within the law, assuming inbound callers were making their calls in New York. A better practice would be to notify employees at the outset of the policy and have them sign a consent.

    On a final note, employee personal calls may not be recorded, and as such, employees should either be instructed not to use business lines for personal calls, or should be given a separate phone that can be used for personal calls during lunch or break times.