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Should I secretly record evidence of unlawful workplace behavior?

If you’re suspicious that something unlawful is going on in your workplace, you may have wondered whether it would be a good idea to secretly record phone calls or conversations in order to gather evidence before blowing the whistle. If you work in Minnesota, you absolutely should not do so without first talking to an attorney.

Minnesota’s statute on the interception and disclosure of wire, electronic, or oral communications does allow such recordings in limited circumstances, either by a participant or with at least one participant’s consent. However, if you don’t follow the rules carefully you could run into serious problems.

In the worst case, you might end up breaking the law, which has a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. Even if what you did wasn’t illegal, however, there is also the possibility that any conversations you recorded would be inadmissible as evidence in court.

If you believe that illegal discrimination or harassment, fraud against the government, or other unlawful activities are taking place at your job, however, there are things you can do. Keeping a dated, detailed written record of your observations could prove to be invaluable evidence later.

If you decide to go beyond privately keeping a record, there are a few things to know about blowing the whistle:

First, know that both Minnesota and federal laws protect conscientious people who report what they honestly believe is misconduct. These laws prohibit job retaliation against whistleblowers. Nevertheless, it is possible you’ll face retaliation. In some cases, employers and co-workers treat whistleblowers as troublemakers, or as if they had betrayed the trust of the company or group. They sometimes retaliate by reducing the whistleblower’s responsibilities, demoting them, denying them promotions or even firing them.

Second, you may have a claim under the federal False Claims Act if the activities you have observed involve fraud against the government. In cases involving fraud such as overstating eligibility for a federal tax incentive, inflating invoices under a defense contract, or overbilling Medicare or Medicaid, the whistleblower may be eligible to receive a portion of any taxpayer funds saved.

Blowing the whistle on misconduct can be stressful, and every situation is different. If you’re considering doing so, discuss your situation with an employment law attorney before taking any action that could put your job at risk.

Source: Aol Jobs, "Can I Secretly Record a Conversation at Work?" Donna Ballman, Nov, 19, 2013

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