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This Week's Tip: Tape Recording Counseling Sessions Q&A
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This Week's Tip: Tape Recording Counseling Sessions Q&A

Q: An employee wants to tape record a meeting his supervisor has
scheduled to discuss performance problems. Should we allow him to do
this? What if we refuse and he does it anyway?

A: Generally, most employers refuse requests to tape meetings.
You are not required by law to permit tape recordings, and there are
several practical reasons not to allow them.

First, as the employer's representative, the supervisor should control the
meeting and not let the employee dictate the terms. Just as the
supervisor decides where and when the meeting takes place, how long it
lasts, and what to discuss, the supervisor also should take charge of all
other aspects, including whether it is recorded.

Second, an accurate written account of the session generally serves
your purposes better than a taped one, especially if there are any
emotional outbursts or harsh exchanges. A written account can soothe
over rough spots and provide, if needed, a dispassionate perspective at
a hearing or trial.

Finally, the mere act of taping can create an unnatural and stilted
atmosphere that limits open and constructive dialogue during the

Although you have valid reasons to refuse the employee's request, you
should still try to address the concerns that prompted it. For example,
when you communicate your refusal, ask why he wants to record the
meeting. If he is worried about fairness or honesty, ask for specific
examples of problems and then address these with the supervisor.

Further, as an alternative to taping the session, you could offer to let him
review the supervisor's post-session written account and then make
additions to clarify or dispute the supervisor's version. This offer should
soften your refusal, increase his comfort level about what will happen at
the meeting, and thus help move the process forward.

Of course, the employee may ignore your refusal and record the session
anyway. In that case, you have grounds to discipline the employee for
insubordination. Also, an unauthorized recording may have legal

For example, in some states, like California, Illinois, and Michigan, taping
is only allowed if all parties to the conversation consent. (In contrast,
federal law requires the consent of only one party to the taping.)
Therefore, if you are in a state that requires consent from all parties and
your employee makes the recording without the supervisor's permission,
he then also may be subject to criminal action for violating the law.
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