Can I Tape Record My Boss? (2018)

taperecorder1.jpgHere’s a question I hear every now and then from clients. The answer is: generally, no, you can not legally tape record conversation with your boss or anyone else without their permission or consent. In other words, you can’t do what the FBI does on TV when they put a wire on a snitch and the snitch then tries to trick an unsuspecting mobster into making a damning confession. Why can the FBI while you can’t? They have a warrant . . . or so they should, anyway.

AN IMPORTANT BUT: if you and other person(s) are having a conversation “in a public gathering or in any legislative, judicial, executive or administrative proceeding open to the public, or in any other circumstance in which the parties to the communication may reasonably expect that the communication may be overheard or recorded”, then tape recording is permitted, even without the knowledge or permission of the other participants in the conversation.

California Penal Code sections 631 and California Penal Code sections 632 make it a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and/or 1 year in state prison. Also, any illegal tape recording you make can not be used as evidence in a court of law. I have heard of instances where illegal tape recordings were used in court to impeach, i.e., to show someone is lying or saying something contradictory, but I haven’t been able to confirm that.

For all you wanted to know about tape recording someone, go to “Can We Tape?: A Practical Guide to Taping Phone Calls and In-Person Conversations in the 50 States and D.C.” Here is their website.

28 Comments

  1. Daisy on July 18, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    I only have been working for this company for almost 6 months , my boss (owner) is very offesive, belittles me and screams a lot at me everyday. I am the only employee. I would like to record her so I can show my Doctor that I am not lying about my Stress and Anxiety level. My hair is falling out and I have lost my person. I doubt myself everyday because she calls me stupid. And whhen there is a mistake she blames me even though I was in the one that did that mistake. I have had 2 anxiety attack because of it. Can someone please help me.

    • Samuel on August 16, 2018 at 5:17 pm

      Daisy, I am so sorry to hear that your boss is doing those things to you.. though it is illegal and won’t stand up in court, I would still record your boss with my phone in my pocket and only show your doctor. If you are being mistreated at work that is a felony and so if you report it, you may be given legal permission to record. Regardless of what you do from here on out, I want you to know that you are amazing and valuable. You aren’t stupid or an idiot. Jesus loves you and has made you for a purpose, and I’m sorry you have been hurt so much by this person. What they are doing isn’t right and I will be praying that you find a way out and find peace again in this craziness. If you don’t know Jesus personally, I’d invite you to spend some time with him! He’s the most kind and loving person I’ve ever encountered and he thinks so highly of you.

    • Megan on December 11, 2018 at 12:01 am

      Actually, what you can and can’t do is in your employee handbook

      I work in HR. it is not illegal to record UNLESS you have these outlined in your employee manual. lots of employers throw you the manual day 1 of starting and ask you to sign within that 5 mins.

      IT IS IN YOUR RIGHTS to Ask for time to review and sign
      They cannot force your signature as that would have to be outlined PRIOR to your start date

  2. Will on June 22, 2018 at 11:49 am

    Does this apply to simple video footage as well? What does California explain as “recordings?” It sounds like you just can’t record voice conversations. In a private and closed office door, can my employer record secret video footage of me without my knowledge? They are a huge corporate company.

  3. Karla S. on May 24, 2018 at 9:03 am

    We need to change the law. We need to do one of those propositions or whatever and have people vote on this in California. This sucks that employers can get away with this. Jerks.

  4. John on February 26, 2018 at 8:09 pm

    Hello everyone, I have a question. I was working in a nonprofit organization and my boss was a very offensive person and screamed a lot to the employees, my question is that if I can record him in conversations I understand that this is not legal but my point is that they have a disclaimer at the main entrance that says “audio and video recording” can somebody help me?

  5. andre on November 15, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    I became disabled at my job a year ago.At my final medical evaluation the QME stated that I can no longer do the work i’ve been doing. I had my final meeting with my boss and the HR department and they informed me they were going to have to terminate me.They gave me information on what I needed to do to implement my retirement. Would that be legal to record?

  6. Tina on July 28, 2017 at 7:07 am

    I forgot to mention this is in California I am at work & discuss discriminatory behavior with her & I record the conversation & she has her daughter in her office & allows husband to walk in.
    If I record bec she had them in office is it ok to have recorded.
    Also are there any laws sbout a boss having a personnel conversation in front of husband/ work that are against the law when we are having a personnel conversation

  7. Tina on July 28, 2017 at 7:05 am

    I am at work & discuss discriminatory behavior with her & I record the conversation & she has her daughter in her office & allows husband to walk in.
    If I record bec she had them in office is it ok to have recorded.
    Also are there any laws sbout a boss having a personnel conversation in front of husband/ work that are against the law when we are having a personnel conversation

  8. Cohan on July 19, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    I’m being harrasesd at work by a bully. He keeps making fun of me but I have no evidence. Can I record someone who’s harassing me in the workplace cafeteria.

    • Megan on December 10, 2018 at 11:59 pm

      did you get resolution?

  9. Tammy Hernandez on July 17, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    A few times my boss was like bullying me in front of other workers and I text him saying that if he would please pull me out side when he wants to talk to me because he talks to me in front of other employees and other workers that were there in the store working and I told him that I felt very uncomfortable and that it was none of anybody else’s business what he told me so what if he continues to do that. Also he said he’s been recording other people’s conversations and that he has it on his cell phone and this makes me very uncomfortable and he is my boss how can I trust him with anything I say to him I feel like I’m getting set up. He talks to me very angrily and if I don’t do my job he says he’ll be back to check if it’s done I feel threatened. I am a manager of a Ventura gas station and he is a manager of the Oxnard gas station and he like overlooks other gas stations he just started this company a year ago I’ve been in the same place for like 8 years

  10. Aeric on June 1, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    So, if my employer is committing wage theft by refusing to pay me overtime, and I call to confront them about it, I’m not allowed to record the conversation as evidence of them committing a crime?

    • Eugene Lee on June 5, 2017 at 10:32 pm

      That depends on what state you are in. But if you are in California, recording someone without their consent (in a place where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy), is actually a criminal misdemeanor that carries both criminal and civil monetary penalties. If you want to create a record of wage theft, do it by lodging complaints to your supervisors (and/or HR) in WRITING (by email or by text message). Remember, if the employer punishes you for complaining, that is illegal retaliation.

      • StumpNuts on July 22, 2017 at 9:08 pm

        Would a meeting room at work without doors count as a reasonable expectation of privacy? At one point in the meeting a coworker walked interrupted with some work questions and as far as I know after she left the room she was simply out of line of sight five feet away.

  11. Jim on September 1, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Next time I am at a Dodgers game if there is any sound recording they must shut it off. I DO NOT CONSENT. And I don’t consent to pictures either.

    • Eugene Lee on September 10, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      Of course, that’s a very public setting where there wouldn’t be a reasonable expectation of privacy, so you may have a hard time pursuing a wiretap claim.

    • Helper Monkey on October 15, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      Read the back of your ticket and/or the signs posted around the ballpark to the effect that you’ve waived those rights by attending the game.

  12. Protecting Myself on June 30, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    What if your workplace has recording equipment throughout the facility and has a notice at the entrance that states the property is protected by electronic surveillance?

  13. Justin Ahlquist on March 29, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    This law is used to protect the unions, high tech age discrimination, and the government.

  14. LA_FAN on March 12, 2016 at 10:28 pm

    CAN YOU MAKE A iPHONE VIDEO RECORDING WITH SOUND WITHOUT INFORMING SOMEONE?

  15. Debelle on September 15, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    If my boss meets with me in a public space, such as Starbucks or Barnes & Noble, then it is legal to record the meeting?

  16. need to know on May 19, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    How about if your boss tells you to commit fraud and I caught him tape. How about if your boss tells you that his boss has been trying to fire me.How about if my boss is just gunning for me and I need proof because hr is in favor of my boss and not bias how bout if my boss tells an employee that im a dick

    • Eugene Lee on May 30, 2015 at 12:39 am

      Illegal tape recordings may still be admissible as evidence to prove someone is lying, under certain federal court decisions. However, it remains a criminal misdemeanor under California law and carries a possible jail term and criminal and civil penalties. You will really want to consult with a civil and/or criminal attorney about your question. Best of luck with your claim.

  17. Vanessa Alexis Smith on May 11, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    So what if I pull out my phone and tell him he is be recorded in the middle of him abusing me or other employees???

  18. Chris on May 30, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Is this really just? If someone is being, extremely, verbally abuse then he/she should have the right to record it.

  19. Darren Chaker on February 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    The law is the law so it is improbably the tape recording would be allowed. Likewise, it may appear as a set up since a jury may not know what else was said prior to the boss being taped, or in what manner he/she was provoked. Darren Chaker

  20. Los Angeles Lawyer on January 14, 2010 at 8:06 am

    Excellent advice, It’s something that individuals should be very careful of. It’s often times not worth the risk of getting in trouble to prove a point in the court of law.

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