DEAR CARRIE: I work in an office. Can the manager tape our conversations with customers without first telling us? — Legal Eavesdropping?
DEAR LEGAL: Yes, and here's why:
"The majority of states, including New York, follow the federal one-party consent rule," said employment attorney Howard M. Wexler, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw in Manhattan. "The federal Wiretap Act permits the recording of telephone calls and in-person conversations with the consent of only one of the parties to the conversation."
Thus, he said, "Where the individual recording the conversation is a party to the conversation, no additional consent is required under federal law."
Generally, consent doesn't need to be expressed and is implied if a person stays on the line, despite knowing that the call is being recorded, such as by providing a beeping tone or a disclosure that the call is being recorded, Wexler said.
And he said often employers give employees a heads-up on their telephone practices in a company handbook.
"Many employers have express policies in their employee handbook that put employees on notice that telephone calls with customers may be recorded," he said.
DEAR CARRIE: I have been working for the same company for 20 years and am eligible for five weeks of vacation. Normally, when we want to schedule time off for vacation, we put in a request via our payroll provider, which is then sent to the manager for approval. This year, a new manager started a system that requires us to bid for our vacation. So a calendar is sent to all of the employees in our department, and we are allowed to schedule one week off only on the first go-round. The employees with seniority get to choose first; then the calendar goes to the other employees with less time on the job. When I received the calendar, the request I had was for nine consecutive days off but, I was told that I could take only five the first go-round. I explained that I planned to take a cruise and would have to fly out of state to board the ship, something requiring more than five days. Under the new policy, when the calendar came around again, if the other days that I needed were still available, I would be able to request the additional time off. It didn't work out that way. When the calendar came around again, the remaining days I needed were taken. And my vacation plans were in tatters. Is vacation bidding legal, and can we be denied time off? This is not something the entire company has to abide by, only our department. Some co-workers suggested that I call in sick to cover the days off I didn't get. But why would I have to use sick time when I have plenty of vacation time? Besides, I would have to bring in a doctor's note if I'm off for three consecutive days. I would appreciate if you could shed some light on this. — Benefits Bind
DEAR BENEFITS: I am unfamiliar with a bidding process for vacations, and your employer's version seems stress-inducing.
But the company's new policy is probably legal. Companies don't have to offer paid time off, so when they do, they can set the terms as long as their policies don't discriminate or shortchange employees' paid time off. And companies have to make good on whatever number of days they promise. So while you may not be able to take off a chunk of time when you want to, you must eventually be able to use the days you were promised.
I also would advise against using sick days to get around the new vacation policy. If you are not covered by a union contract or employment agreement, you could be fired for any reason, let alone for violating company policy.
Go to bit.ly/LIvacation for more on state laws regarding vacations.