Whatever You Say Can, And Will, Be Used Against You

Posted by Edward Sharkey on Fri, 03/04/2016 - 05:00

What tops my list of most useful legal advice for business owners? Other people record you a lot more than you know. This includes customers, employees, and counter-parties. And a recent verdict from Fairfax County, VA illustrates the potential cost. A patient who was ridiculed by his doctors while under anesthesia was awarded $500,000 by a jury.

One EEOC office in Houston disclosed that one-third of employees who filed discrimination charges had secret tape recordings of discussions with their boss or human resources.

Is all of this secret recording good for society? Sometimes. A tape can be the smoking-gun evidence of bad conduct or intent that we want to penalize. On the other hand, a recording may shock us into punishing something that is not really harmful at all.

The insults about the aggrieved patient were very callous. But they were private comments between professionals who practice under enormous stress. They "hurt" the patient only because he liked to eavesdrop. That's an anti-social habit, and his story shows he knows that. He told the jury he turned the hidden recorder on, before the procedure, because he wanted to remember the doctor's post-op instructions. It seems like a lot of extraneous recording.

You don't have to agree about the societal benefit. Just don't doubt that the chance someone secretly records you is probably ten times greater than you believe. Imagine everything you say, and whether you would like your peers to judge you for it. This advice might help a bad person avoid liability for bad conduct. But I think it will serve a lot of careless but good people much more.

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