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Navigating Employee Privacy Rights in Pennsylvania: What Employers Need to Know About Audio and Video Recording

On Behalf of | Sep 20, 2023 | Business Law

Legal Boundaries of Audio and Video Recording in the Workplace

In today’s digital era, Pennsylvania employers can leverage various technological tools to bolster workplace safety and productivity. Audio and video recordings stand out and both technologies when used properly provide a way for employers to oversee activities and deter potential misconduct. However, in Pennsylvania—a two-party consent state—it is crucial to be informed regarding the balance between an employee’s reasonable expectation of privacy and the employers rights to record. This article shines light on the legal nuances, consent mandates, and boundaries of audio and video recording in the workplace in Pennsylvania.

Legal Considerations for Audio and Video Recording in Pennsylvania Workplaces

Pennsylvania is a two-party consent state.  This means that both parties must agree before any audio is recorded.  Video recording, on the other hand, may be acceptable in certain situations, but when audio is involved, consent becomes paramount.

Key legal considerations for Pennsylvania employers include:

  • Purpose of the recording: There should be a legitimate interest, such as preventing misconduct, ensuring safety, or overseeing interactions.
  • Scope of the recording: Video recording should never occur in areas where employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Restrooms, break rooms, and locker rooms are off-limits.
  • Employee consent for audio recording: Consent from all parties involved in audio recording. (More on this below)
  • Retention of recordings: Maintain recordings for intended purpose. Safeguarding confidentiality is essential. Create a policy for who has access to recording and when recordings are deleted.

Two-party Consent – Notification to Person being Recorded

Pennsylvania is a two-party consent state and this requires employees to provide their affirmative consent before an employer makes an audio recording of their conversations.  Employers should:

  • Transparently convey recording intentions and when possible obtain explicit, written consents from all involved.
  • Notify employees about audio recording devices, either through signs or accessible written policies that have been signed by the employee.
  • To the extent you have zoom or teams meetings – make sure you begin with the dialogue box where the employer must consent to audio and video recording of the meeting.

Balancing the Employer’s needs Against  an Employee’s Reasonable Expectation of Privacy 

Recording tools can indeed enhance workplace security, but Pennsylvania employers must respect the line between security and expectation of privacy. Avoid capturing areas with high privacy expectations. Instead, focus on public zones like entrances and common areas. Access to these recordings should be restricted, and clear guidelines should set forth when the recordings are deleted.

Best Practices for Pennsylvania Employers on Recording in the Workplace

For employers in Pennsylvania looking to introduce recording, here are a few actionable steps:

  • Candidly discuss recording purposes to foster an atmosphere of trust and ensure employee consent.
  • Create clear channels for employees to voice their privacy concerns or seek clarity on recording protocols.
  • Conduct comprehensive risk assessments, considering both employee privacy expectations and organizational demands.
  • Regularly reassess and adapt recording policies to remain updated with evolving technology and legal landscapes.
  • Provide clear notice as required.
  • Act promptly to address privacy issues, which may involve corrective action against policy breaches or policy refinement.

Consulting with a Pennsylvania Business Attorney who has a strong understanding of the Commonwealth’s complex privacy laws is highly recommended. Anderson Leavitt will ensure that your business is able to leverage powerful recording solutions while avoiding potentially disastrous claims related to violation of employee’s rights to privacy.  If you have any questions regarding your employment agreements or compliance in general, or any other aspect of your business, please feel free to contact Doug Leavitt at Anderson Leavitt.

This entry is presented for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.