Dear Evil HR Lady
I have a question about firing people. Let’s say that someone is being fired for siphoning off company client lists and selling them to a major competitor. We obviously are going to fire the person, but we want to get as much information from him as possible, so we are having an exit interview, where he will be presented with all the information we have about the bad things he has done. The hope, he will expound or at least confirm. The question is, IS IT OK TO RECORD THIS TERMINATION INTERVIEW?
And We’re Suing Him Too!
Dear Suing Boss,
Get a lawyer.
Evil HR Lady
Okay, Okay, I called a lawyer for you. I happen to have a lawyer brother. (Note, he’s not Evil Lawyer Brother because that would be redundant, don’t you think?) He said that in the state he practices in, it would be perfectly legal as long as the person conducting the interview was aware that the interview was being recorded. However, he cautioned that not all states would have the same rule, so get your own lawyer first.
Employees have no expectation of privacy at work. (Remember, this means your employer can and probably does monitor your e-mail and internet usage–but it’s still okay to read Evil HR Lady at work. Really. Please?) But, you do want to be careful with how far you go with monitoring.
If you commonly made it a habit to record employees (even during benign exit interviews) you could end up with every good employee quitting and only those who couldn’t possibly find another job staying. At best, you would end up with people saying the following in their exit interviews: “Oh, I love it here so much. These people are all like family to me. I don’t know why I’m leaving. Did I mention I love it here and love my boss–and you Miss HR Person, I just want you to know this is the best HR department I’ve ever encountered.” Gah! You actually want truth in these things, which is why we keep exit interview information confidential.
This, of course, is an extenuating circumstance. Your errant employee is in a whole heap of trouble. My true recommendation is regardless of what your attorney says about recording the interview, you have your lawyer present during the termination. And make sure you are calm about the confrontation. No screaming about how the employee is ruining your company. Present the facts and ask him what went on.
I do not envy you, however. Unpleasant all around. But, I am very glad you are firing this person and letting him know why.
Evil HR Lady (signing off for real this time)