Employees are free to record workplace conversations
The policy at issue was quite broad and prohibited employees from recording “conversations, phone calls, images or company meetings with any recoding device (including but not limited to cellular phone, PDA, digital camera, etc.) unless prior approval is received from” management. The policy further applied to all areas of the store, including the parking lot and areas in front of the store. Indeed, in attempting to defend the policy, Whole Foods’ global vice president testified that the policy applied regardless whether employees were engaging in activity under the NLRA.
In affirming the NLRB finding, the Second Circuit seemed to seize on the above testimony in stating that Whole Goods policies “prohibit recording regardless of whether the recording is in relation to employees’ exercise of their section 7 rights.” The court went on finding this blanket prohibition could include “employees recording images of employee picketing, documenting unsafe workplace equipment or hazardous conditions,” and other forms of protected activity. (See Whole Foods market Group, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board, Case No. 16-0002-ag, 16-0346 (2nd Cir. June 1, 2017))
The court did however leave open the possibility for such recording bans to be enforced provided they are more narrowly tailored and otherwise stating that such policy was not intended to chill employees’ section 7 rights. For example, a policy that is designed to protect an employer’s confidential and trade secret information would likely be upheld.