Have you ever employed someone you thought was wonderful, only to find out that they have a Dark Side when it comes to getting what they want? You’ll probably only discover their Dark Side when they’ve quit, particularly if it’s in acrimonious circumstances!
One of my clients had this very experience just this week, when one of his staff resigned ‘…with immediate effect’, sabotaged his company and then had the temerity to harass him by bombarding him and his fellow Board members with emails, What’s Apps and text messages.
To cap it all, though, she then sent him an email about a call she’d received from someone in HR, containing the following killer sentence:
“Mrs X made one attempt to telephone me, which I have recorded.”
It prompted my client to ask exactly how he could protect his staff, company and clients from such underhand behaviour in future. How far could this go? The member of staff had had almost unlimited access to most areas of his business. Had she engaged in covert surveillance previously…and what might she do with the confidential information she possessed?
I’m confining my comments to the potential of using such recordings in an employment tribunal, but here’s what you need to note:
- Be very careful about what you say at meetings – if a ‘backstabbing’ employee records you, even without your knowledge, the recording could be admissible.
- Ensure that you have a policy in place to state that recordings are not permitted at meetings etc. Even though a covert recording could still be admissible, the fact that an employee went against that policy could affect their credibility.
- You can refuse to continue with a meeting if you suspect that an employee is recording it.
- If you are having ‘private’ deliberations after a meeting with an employee, either ask the employee to remove their belongings or move to another room.
- If you’re planning to tape record meetings/discussions and even private conversations at work for use at tribunal, ensure that you disclose such recordings as early in proceedings as possible.
- Prepare your arguments for putting them before the tribunal based on relevance and context.
- Check your Company’s policies and procedures – if you’re making recordings in breach of Company policy, this could backfire on you later. You should be particularly careful if you work in a sector requiring high levels of confidentiality such as the Government, education or law.
- Consider whether this is really the best way forward in achieving your goals at work – think about what this type of action says about you, how it will affect your reputation in future and the damage it could do, not only to the people you tape recorded, but other colleagues, friends or family who might reasonably believe that they can no longer trust you.
In my client’s case, I’d already anticipated that his staff might engage in covert operations of this sort and had addressed this in his Personnel Manual. Although I’ve been teased about the fact that my Personnel Manuals are the most comprehensive known to man and clients have sometimes wondered whether they could just cut and paste one off the Internet (thus saving the lives of several trees as well as my fees), I’m glad to say that, in this case, my client could see the value in what I do.
Thankfully, most of his staff are Jedis, but at least I know he’s protected against any Siths that might come his way…
If you’re interested in the legal bits, here they are – you’d be amazed at what staff and employers get up to!
Punjab National Bank v Gosain UKEAT/0003/14/SM
Amwell View School Governors v Dogherty  ICR 125
Vaughan v London Borough of Lewisham & Ors  UKEAT/0534/12
Williamson v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police UKEAT/0346/09, 9 March 2010
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