HR Policies & Procedures

Listen To Employee Phone Calls? Not In My State, You Don’t!

Your right to do electronic monitoring, like many other management actions, is regulated by state law as well as federal. Here’s how to know what your state allows.

You’ve been tipped off by a competitor, who’s also a friend, that someone in your organization is offering her your secret information in exchange for a job offer. To catch the perpetrator, you’ve set up a sting operation worthy of the TV show, “Cops.”

You’ll do it by tapping into the suspect’s office phone and recording his calls without his knowledge. That’s OK, though, because after reading a recent article in Daily Advisor, you’ve satisfied federal law by getting the called party’s written permission to listen in, and even posted a notice in your office stating that employee communications may be monitored.

All set to spring the trap? Well, not really, because you’re also in the trap.

That’s because you happen to be in California, where state law generally forbids listening in on calls unless the all parties to the call, including your wayward employee, consent. Your worker will get fired for what he’s done, but you’re the one looking at a $2,500 fine and a year in the slammer!

State Law Almost Always Rules!

This situation illustrates again how important it is to know the differences that exist between state law and the federal, and to remember that the tougher standard—usually the state’s—almost always applies. These differences exist in many HR situations … wage and hour, benefits, discrimination … enough, really, to write a book about them.

There is such a book … 50 of them, in fact. One specifically covers each of 49 states, and the 50th covers the District of Columbia. We’re referring, of course, to the What to Do About Personnel Problems in [Your State] series from BLR.

This classic series has been helping employees navigate the complex channels of federal vs. state law since the 1980s. More than 20,000 companies use it. Here’s what employers tell us makes it so valuable:

—Each book is specifically about the user’s state. If you’re in California, you get the California edition.

—Each covers some 200 employment-related topics (including, from the above example, privacy and electronic monitoring.) Click View Table of Contents below to see a list.

—Topics are alphabetically arranged for easy access.

—Each topic includes a plain English discussion of national requirements regarding the topic, then on the very next page, an explanation of the differences in state law.

—The program is updated six times each year, with updates included in the initial price.

—Subscribers receive even more frequent updating through two newsletters a month, one on national matters, the other specifically about employment news in your state.

—A new addition to the program are three annual survey reports in bound-book format. They cover compensation for exempt and non-exempt employees and, in the third report, employee benefits.

You can see samples of several of these materials by clicking the links below.

Because we so highly recommend this program, we’ve arranged for our subscribers to examine it risk-free for up to a month in their own offices. Clink the link below for details.

View national section sample
View newsletter sample
View state section sample
View table of contents

Click for more information about, or to order, What to Do About Personnel Problems in [Your State].