My boss has disciplined
me for comments I allegedly made during meetings with him (I did not make the
statements). My request for having a colleague attend these meetings was
denied, so I would like to tape future meetings, without his consent, to
The meetings are on site
at a federal agency located in Maryland. My belief is that because this is
federal property -- and federal police patrol our campus, not local police --
federal law would apply, not Maryland state law. Therefore, I would not need
Am I correct in presuming
I can record these meetings without my boss's consent?
Dear Recording Artist,
In researching the answer
to the question, Bureaupat fears having disturbed the ghost of Richard Nixon,
whose spirit appears to be hovering above, urging Bureaupat to advise "go right
ahead." Nixon, of course, was the Federal Government's most famous
conversation-taper, and he justified his actions with the statement: "If the
President does it, it's not illegal." Bureaupat, however, believes that this
gentle reader is not the current President, whose usual workplace is in
Washington, DC, and only occasionally holds meetings at Camp David, Maryland.
Accordingly, different rules will therefore apply.
Nixon's precedent, all states, and the federal government, have laws about
taping phone calls and in-person conversations. (If you want to know what the laws are in your state, the
Reporter's Committee on Freedom of the Press has published an invaluable
state-by-state guide. Find it at www.rcfp.org/taping/index.html.) Maryland, as the gentle reader apparently knows,
is one of twelve states in which it is illegal to tape record conversations
without the permission of all the parties involved in the conversation.
Government employees, under Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 119, § 2511, are
permitted to record work-related phone calls or conversations so long as they
are one of the parties to the conversation -- unless the taping is being done
"for the purpose of committing any criminal or tortious act in violation of the
Constitution or laws of the United States or any state."
of lawyer is an ancient and honorable one, requiring considerable skill and
training. Bureaupat does not have
that training, but knows enough to know that, if your surreptitious recording
were ever to be used as evidence in a court of law, your dastardly supervisor
would certainly claim you had made it for the purpose of committing an act you
knew would be in violation of Maryland state laws. It would make for an
interesting debate, at least for Bureaupat, but would surely cost the gentle
reader a good deal of money to find someone to argue his or her side. It will also distract your lawyer (and
Bureaupat thinks you should get the advice of one) from arguing the real issue --
which is that you were unfairly disciplined.
instead suggests to the gentle reader that he or she first initiate a candid
conversation with the boss, and question the boss about those lies. You might
ask the boss if there was a misunderstanding, instead of making an accusation --
and remind the boss that he or she has a boss as well, whom you will not
hesitate to contact. (Another
option, especially if your boss happens to be the President, would be your
local HR office. Most government agencies have employee assistance programs
that should be able to help.)
suggests getting as much evidence as possible, short of taping. Start asking
for written or emailed instructions wherever possible -- and if the boss
refuses, send him or her a quick email after your meetings recapping your
important discussions. Save
drafts, previous versions or documents, and anything else you may have that
show that you were performing your job properly, despite whatever your boss
says. Get on the record with your objections, whatever happens as a result. If
nothing else, it'll make you feel better -- and will be a lot cheaper than
fighting the battle out in court.
If all else
fails, Bureaupat suggests getting the heck out of Dodge. There are any number
of federal agencies which conduct surveillance operation legally -- and if you
get a job with one maybe one day you'll have the pleasure of being part of one
against your old boss, which Bureaupat believes would be a simple case of
Yours in Gov,
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