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Recording employee conversations via hidden microphones West Virginia

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  • Recording employee conversations via hidden microphones West Virginia

    My sister-in-law works for a pet grooming shop, and the owners are very paranoid about their employees talking about them. They have went to the extent of putting up cameras around the shop and lobby and recently installed hidden microphones. One employee has already gotten called into the office for a comment made about one of the owners. Is it legal to record employee conversations? The owners study the tapes looking for anything that they do not like the employees doing or saying, making the employees feel like they are in a fishbowl. They are constently accusing employees of stealing things, that they later find that they have misplaced and do not so much as offer an apology. The employees feel like they are being harassed. Do the employers have a right to moniter their employees to such an extent?

  • #2
    Recording a wire, oral, or electronic communication, or disclosing its contents, is not a violation of West Virginia law when the person recording is a party to the communication or has obtained consent from one of the parties, so long as the recording is not accompanied by a criminal or tortious intent. W. Va. Code § 62-1D-3.

    Under the statute, consent is not required for the taping of a non-electronic communication uttered by a person who does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that communication. See definition of “oral communication,” W. Va. Code § 62-1D-2. In West Virginia Dept. of Health and Human Resources v. Wright, the state Supreme Court held that a woman whose children’s screams could be heard by neighbors nevertheless had a reasonable expectation of privacy in her home, for purposes of the wiretapping law. 453 S.E.2d 646 (1994).

    Recording any such communication, or disclosing its contents with knowledge of the illegal interception, is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years and a fine of not more than $10,000. W. Va. Code § 62-1D-12. An individual whose communications have been unlawfully intercepted can recover civil damages in the amount of actual damages, but not less than $100 per day of violation, along with punitive damages, attorney fees, and litigation costs. W. Va. Code § 62-1D-12.

    So the short answer is no, the owners cannot tape conversations they are not a party to. How do the employees know that hidden microphones have been installed? If it's simply because someone was called into the office because she made a negative comment about the owners, that could be because (a) a co-worker repeated it to the owners, or (b) the employee making the comment was overheard.


    • #3
      Thank you

      Thank you for your reply. To answer your question, the owners' told the employees that they put microphones up around the shop and front desk. So evidently, they don't know or don't care that it is illegal. I used to work at the same grooming shop and it wouldn't be the first illegal thing they've done, without trying to hide in at all.