Recording A Conversation With Your Boss: Advice For Workers In New York

Posted on: 30 January 2016

There are often times when you may wish you had recorded something your boss said to you, particularly if a conversation takes place during a disciplinary or formal meeting. As such, if you pre-empt a 'difficult' conversation, you may now decide to use recording equipment to record what happens. Find out if it's legal to record a conversation at work in this way, and learn more about how to get the right outcome in these situations.

The value of a recording

However innocent a conversation may seem, it's not always possible to know when a recording could become useful. While many people enjoy healthy working relationships with their managers, some workers face problems with discrimination, harassment or unfair treatment that may ultimately end up in court. In these (and other) cases, a recording can quickly lead to the outcome you want.

For example, workplace bullying is a significant problem in the United States. A 2008 survey estimated that around 37 percent of American workers had experienced bullying at work. Faced with a problem on this scale, it's easy to see why some people would want to record interactions that take place at work.           

Recording private conversations

Privacy laws vary between states, but in New York, the law operates on the basis of 'one-party consent'. This rule means that you can record any conversation, as long as at least one party agrees that this can take place. As such, in a 1:1 conversation between you and your boss, you can legally record what he or she says because you have consented to this taking place.

If you want to record a conversation that takes place between other parties, you would need to get at least one person's consent to the recording. In a situation like this, covert recording without consent would become illegal, even if the people in the room were discussing you or anything related directly to you.

Recording public conversations

In some situations, you may decide that you want to record a public conversation. For example, if you believe your colleagues are bullying you, you may want to record things they say about you. In this case, you would have to carefully consider your approach when recording the conversation.

Generally speaking, there is no expectation of privacy in a public place. By speaking openly in a communal area within the office, your colleagues may find it difficult to object to a recording. However, a court could still uphold a complaint that you illegally recorded a conversation without consent. In this situation, a judge would consider each case on its merits, and, according to where the conversation took place, he or she may decide that you should have followed the 'one-party consent' rule.

Getting a high-quality recording

Where the law allows you to record a conversation, a digital transcription recorder will improve your chances of getting the right result. Many smartphones and other devices offer recording capabilities, but digital recorders will normally give you a better outcome. Check out sites like for recorder options.

If you're using a device for the first time, you should:

  • Turn off voice activation. This may save battery life, but you can also often lose crucial words at the start of a sentence.
  • Charge batteries fully. You need to make sure the device doesn't run out of power.
  • Avoid external noise sources. Try to keep the recorder away from air conditioners or other devices that may make noise.

It's also a good idea to test the device before a crucial interview/recording. This will help you test features like different recording speeds, and you can test different positions for the device in your pockets.

Behind closed doors, the one-party consent law generally protects you in New York. Nonetheless, before you use a transcription recorder in other situations, carefully consider how the law could apply to you.