Recording conversations at work – will it get you in hot water?

We are regularly asked by employee and employer clients about secretly recording conversations (audio or video) at work.  Some common questions we get are:

  • Is it legal to record conversations at work?
  • I think I am going to get fired, should I record the meeting?
  • What can I do with the recording, if someone is lying about what was said in the meeting?

With a smartphone in everyone’s pocket, it can be done with the press of a button, but should you?

Is recording conversations legal?

In Canada, it is not a crime to secretly record conversations as long as you are an open participant in that conversation.  This is different from recording a conversation in which you are not an open participant.  For example, planting your smartphone in an office on record, and then leaving the room and recording conversations between others while you are not there is not legal.  That type of recording is not legal and could have criminal consequences. Don’t do it!

Secretly recording conversations is risky

Assuming we are only talking about recording conversations in which you are openly participating, in the employment context, should you do it? It is risky and here are some of the reasons why:

  • If you are an employee, recording conversations at work could be a violation of your employment confidentiality/privacy obligations, agreements or policies. Depending on the circumstances, you could be disciplined or even fired for making the recording. Even if your employer does not have policies against recordings, making secret recordings could be taken by your employer as a reason to fire you for cause. This is because of the trust that is needed in an employment relationship.
  • If you are an employer, you have obligations under privacy legislation to notify your employees that you will be collecting their personal information and the purpose of doing so before you do so. Making secret recordings could be the basis for claims against you including claims for constructive dismissal, breach of privacy and depending on the circumstances, aggravated or punitive damages.
  • Whether you are an employee or an employer, if you end up in court, you might have to produce the recording, even if it doesn’t help your case.

So, think long and hard before secretly hitting record at work.  If you think you need to make secret recordings, this is a sign that there is a problem.  You should consider whether there are more upfront strategies for dealing with the situation.  If you have already secretly recorded a meeting and are involved in an employment dispute or expect to be, an employment lawyer can help you decide whether and how the recording can be used.

This blog is not intended to serve as legal advice, and only provides general information. Every situation must be considered on its own facts.

Need legal advice? Contact us by phone at 604 535-7063 or email [email protected].

Enter your email address below to receive our legal information updates direct to your inbox

Take this job and shove it

New Year, New Job - An Employment Law Perspective

Resolve to quit this year? I have advised many employees who are in a bad work situation, or have found a better job or business opportunity, and are ready to resign. Before you throw in the towel, here are a few key legal issues to consider:

Could this be a constructive dismissal?

If you are quitting, not by choice, but because of fundamental changes to your job to which you did not agree, this could be a constructive dismissal. If you have no choice but to quit because of a hostile or intolerable work environment, this could be a constructive dismissal. The threshold is pretty high - the changes have to be significant. It can be hard to prove that an environment is so hostile that you had to quit.

If it is a constructive dismissal, even though you are quitting, you might be entitled to severance pay. If you think a constructive dismissal is forcing you to quit, I recommend that you get legal advice before you hand in your resignation letter.

How much notice do I need to give?

I get this question a lot. The first thing I do is look at the written employment contract (if there is one). Some employment contracts specify the amount of resignation notice that the employee has to provide. If there is nothing in the contract, then I look at employer policies (if there are any). If there is a contract or employer policy that states the amount of resignation notice they expect, it is usually safe for an employee to follow that.

If there is no contract or policy, I explore with my client what is reasonable in the circumstances of their job. How difficult will it be for the employer to transition their work? 2 weeks notice is enough in many situations, but in some cases, less or more notice might be appropriate. It is also worth considering whether there might be some strategic advantage to providing a longer period of notice.

Can I take customers or company information with me?

This is a hot button issue for employers. If you are thinking about secretly copying or taking information, the fact that you are hiding it is a sign that it is probably a bad idea. You owe your current employer a duty of loyalty while you are still employed, and you may have duties that extend even after you have left. Some employment contracts contain "non-solicitation" or "non-competition" restrictions that limit what you can do for a period of time after you leave. These may or may not be legally enforceable. If you have this type of contract, or if you plan to take customers or company information, I strongly recommend getting legal advice about your rights and obligations, and the potential consequences.

Timing is important

There is rarely a perfect time to make a change, but it is important to consider what is on the horizon. Is there a bonus payment coming up? If it is a matter of a short delay, you may be better to wait until you have that money in your account before you resign.

Leaving on a good note

While the "take this job and shove it" approach can be appealing, it is not one that I recommend. It is always better to leave on a good note if you can. If you are feeling emotional, which is normal, it can help to put together a written resignation letter. Email is fine, but you should take time to carefully consider the wording and message that you are sending.

Or ignore all of the above and maybe you can be the star of the next funny quit video compilation on YouTube:

(Author has no connection to YouTube video creator, just googled funny quit videos, found this and laughed).



This blog is not intended to serve as legal advice, and only provides general information. Every situation must be considered on its own facts.

Need legal advice? Contact us by phone at 604 535-7063 or email [email protected].

Enter your email address below to receive our legal information updates direct to your inbox