Recording Zoom Calls: Know Your Rights & Responsibilities

September 8, 2020

Due to COVID-19, employers and employees have been using Zoom or similar platforms to conduct meetings and communicate with customers, vendors, and peers. Zoom is everywhere now. So is the potential for someone to record a conversation and unknowingly subject themselves to criminal or civil penalties. Therefore, before hitting the record button, know your responsibilities under Wisconsin law.

Section 968.31 of the Wisconsin Statutes regulates the interception and disclosure of wire, electronic, and oral communications done with an expectation of privacy. Wisconsin is known as a one party consent state, which means that you may legally record a conversation if (1) you are a party to the conversation or (2) with the prior consent from one of the involved parties. Therefore, if you are a party on a Zoom call then you may record the conversation. However, if you overhear a conversation from behind a closed door, you may not record or disclose the communication without the consent of at least one party. Moreover, you may never record a conversation with the intent to use the recording for a criminal activity (e.g. extortion). Finally, before recording a Zoom call at work, be certain to check your employee handbook, because some employers may prohibit recording work conversations without all parties’ consent.

Whether the recorded conversation is admissible in a court of law is based on a number of factors, including the medium used (e.g. Zoom versus telephone). If Wis. Stat. § 968.31 applies, you only need consent from one person for admissibility. Even without consent, the recorded conversation may be admissible based on a determination of relevancy. However, under Wis. Stat. § 885.365, evidence obtained by using voice recording equipment to record a telephone conversation is generally inadmissible in civil actions. There are exceptions to this general rule, including if the person is informed that the conversation will be recorded prior to the conversation.

Wisconsin has severe penalties for failure to follow the law under Wis. Stat. § 968.31. If the recording or disclosure is unlawful, you would be guilty of a Class H felony and subject to a civil action by the person or persons whose communication you illegally recorded or disclosed. Civil damages include the injured party’s actual damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.

Zoom and other teleconferencing systems make recording conversations quick and easy. However, be careful to follow the law to avoid harsh penalties. Since Wisconsin is a one-party consent state, you can legally record Zoom calls that you are a party to. Moreover, lawfully recorded conversations would be admissible in a court of law. However, if you are not a party to the conversation, be certain to have the approval of one party before recording. Finally, before recording a conversation in the workplace, be sure to check your employee handbook, as your employer may ban recordings of Zoom calls without all parties consenting.