Monitoring employee telephone calls

Limits to recording employees on the telephone

Stuart Rudner

Question: We have started recording employee telephone calls for training purposes. All employees are aware of this and incoming callers are told about it. Are there any limits to this practice? The system monitors all calls, including personal ones and interviews.

Answer: Many organizations record telephone calls for training or customer service purposes.

There are two issues to address: When is recording acceptable, and how can the recordings be used?

As I do not profess to be an expert in privacy laws, I consulted with Shari Simpson-Campbell (a.k.a the “Princess of PIPEDA”), a senior researcher and consultant with the Canadian Privacy Institute and an excellent reference for such issues. Although she is not a lawyer, she delivered a very lawyerly answer by beginning her response with “it depends.” She went on to make a number of important points, including the following:

•To be in compliance with applicable privacy laws, the recordings should only be used for the purpose for which they are collected. In this case, based upon the wording of the question, the purpose appears to be training, which is an inherently vague term.

•The term “training” does not typically include disciplinary action, so the recordings cannot be used for that purpose.

•The organization should be as specific as possible in identifying the purpose for the recordings.

•Personal phone calls would not fall into the category of training, even at its broadest, and therefore should not be recorded.

•Recording personal calls can lead to all sorts of issues, including inadvertent recording and dissemination of particularly private information, such as health information.

•If calls are being monitored, there should be some sort of message or notification so that all persons involved in a call are aware of the recording.

•The recordings should only be kept as long as they are necessary to fulfill the identified purpose, and should then be eliminated. Records should be kept regarding how and when recordings are destroyed.

Clearly, then, it is incumbent upon an employer or organization that intends to rely upon recordings of phone conversations to consider and enunciate the specific purpose for which the recordings will be used. They will then have to tailor their procedures accordingly, and will only be entitled to use those recordings for the stated purpose.

Stuart Rudner is a partner in Miller Thomson LLP’s Labour and Employment Group in Toronto. He can be reached at (416) 595-8672 or [email protected]

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