Employment Lessons from TMZ

Q:     The Kardashian-West/Swift feud heated up again this week with Kim releasing audio allegedly secretly taken of Taylor and Kanye.  Taylor is upset (like, even more than boy break up upset), and I think she just needs to “Shake It Off.”[1]  I own a business, and I record all my conversations with employees.  But, I  only record them to protect myself from the “Golddiggers[2] who may sue me for wrongful termination, discrimination, or harassment.  I’m not trying to make anyone “Famous,”[3] and I am definitely not trying to be “Mean.”[4]  My recording policy is “Safe and Sound[5] for my business right?

A:    Sorry, but “I Knew You Were Trouble[6] when this question came up!  Both you and Kim, are in violation of California’s privacy protections.  In California, all people have the right to privacy.  Indeed, it is enumerated in Article I, section 1 of California’s Constitution.  This right to privacy is broad enough to encompass the actions of private employers.  Surreptitiously recording another person may be considered a violation of that person’s constitutional rights.

Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, in California you can be criminally liable if you  record another individual without their consent.  See California Penal Code section 632.  Not only does the Penal Code provide for possible jail time and fines, it also permits a victim to sue for civil damages.

And, because the evidence would have been illegally obtained, you would likely not be able to use it at any wrongful termination, harassment, or discrimination trial, even in the event that an employee actually sued.

If you are still set on recording the termination meeting, you can do so only if the employee consents to the recording.  It is recommended that the consent be in writing.

Like Kim, you are not “Out Of The Woods[7] with your liability for secretly recording private conversations.  You need to “Begin Again[8] and rethink your policy.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shake_It_Off

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Digger_(Kanye_West_song)

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famous_(Kanye_West_song)

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mean_(song)

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safe_%26_Sound_(Taylor_Swift_song)

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Knew_You_Were_Trouble

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Out_of_the_Woods_(song)

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begin_Again_(Taylor_Swift_song)

This Legal Update / Bulletin is for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. The hypothetical question is posed to illustrate a point and does not contemplate all potential legal considerations This update should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.


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