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BusinessColumnistsCarrie Mason-Draffen

Boss' secret recording of conversations with employees is legal under NY law

Can a boss secretly record a conversation with

Can a boss secretly record a conversation with employees behind a closed door? Photo Credit: iStock

DEAR CARRIE: We recently learned that our employer has been secretly recording our conversations via his cellphone when we are called into his office behind closed doors. Is this legal in New York? -- Secret is Out

DEAR SECRET:  It's allowable, even if it doesn't fall into the best-practices category.

"In New York, it is legal for someone who is part of a conversation to record it surreptitiously," said employment lawyer Richard Kass of Bond, Schoeneck & King in Manhattan, who represents employers. "That doesn't mean it's a good idea, though. Once employees figure out that they're being recorded, they will be less likely to be candid and open when they speak with their managers."

What's more, he said the furtive approach damages employee morale.

"Recording conversations also fosters a negative atmosphere that can cause employees to quit or to seek out union representation," he said.

So where does that leave youu Now that the secret is out, you should always make sure you don't say anything that could come back to haunt you.

I wouldn't recommend using humor because a manager who resorts to furtive strategies may lack a playful side. So comments like, "Do you want me to speak into the microphone" or "Will this recording self-destruct" would probably be lost on him.

If you have a human resources department, you and your colleague should talk to someone there about your concerns and try to find out why the manager is recording your conversations with him.

DEAR CARRIE: I gave a two-week notice at my job on a Friday. The following Monday, the managers terminated me and said the company would not pay me for the two weeks I had planned to stay. Since I said I would work those weeks, am I entitled to get paidd Or are they within their legal right to terminate me without payy And am I entitled to cash out my unused vacation timee-- Premature Goodbye

DEAR PREMATURE: When you gave notice, little did you know you would receive hard lessons in three areas of labor law: Employment at will, hours worked and paid time off. The employment-at-will principle holds that employees can be dismissed at any time for any reason, unless a union contract or other employment agreement restricts the firing. Most states, including New York, adhere to that doctrine. And since you won't work those two weeks, the company doesn't have to pay you for them. The paid time off issue could mean more bad news. If the company's vacation policy says you forfeit any accrued paid time off when you leave, you could come up empty on that score, too.

You did the right thing in giving a two-week notice. It's too bad your ex-employer didn't respond in kind.

DEAR CARRIE: I worked in a radiology office for more than 25 years until it was bought by another company. After a few months, the new owners said they still wanted me to input data, but wanted me to work from home. So they set me up with a computer. And I now get paid by the line, instead of the hourly salary I earned before. If my pay or hours drop dramatically, would I be eligible for unemployment benefitss -- Home at Work

DEAR HOME: If you wind up working fewer than four days a week and earning $420 or less, the maximum weekly unemployment payment, you could qualify for partial unemployment benefits.

Despite the new arrangement, the company still has to pay you for all the hours you work, and every week your total pay must work out to at least $8.75 an hour, the state's minimum wage. And you have to be paid 1.5 times your regular hourly rate when you work more than 40 hours a week.

For further information check the N.Y. Labor Department FAQ section.

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