My supervisor is harassing me at work. I have asked him to stop before but he continues. I feel very uncomfortable and intimidated by his advances. So far he hasn't physically touched me, but he finds ways to get me alone and in uncomfortable situations. I asked him to stop again, but this time I recorded him. On the recording he specifically told me not to tell the owner because it would get him in trouble, but he did not apologize or say it was just a misunderstanding. That felt like a threat, so I reported it to another supervisor who took it to the owner of the company. The owner says that I am the one who did something illegal and won't even listen to the recording. He says it is inadmissable in court anyway. Is that true? Or can I use it as proof that I am being harassed?
Family Law Attorney
The owner is right that the recording was illegal. You cannot record someone without their knowledge. If would be different if you were to start the recording by telling your supervisor that you are recording the conversation because his actions are making you uncomfortable. That way, he is on notice you are recording him so it's legal and also you have proof of this at the very beginning of the recording. In that case, you haven't broken any laws and I think you have a good argument that the recording itself should be admissible in court as your supervisor's own statement.
That said, if your supervisor is making you feel uncomfortable at work and he refuses to stop when you ask him, you need to document this immediately. Write a polite email to your supervisor in which you tell him what he is doing, why it makes you uncomfortable, and that you have already asked him to stop and he has refused. CC the owner of the company on that email (and the HR director or anyone else who would handle such a situation at your company). Remember that you are creating your own evidence here, so be careful to remain entirely professional, calm, and polite in these emails. If your supervisor continues the unwanted behavior and the owner still refuses to take action, contact an experienced employment law attorney.
My responses to posts on AVVO are not legal advice, nor do they create an attorney-client relationship. In order to provide true (and reliable) legal advice, an attorney must be able to ask questions of the person seeking legal advice and to thus gather the appropriate information. In order for an attorney-client relationship to exist, you and I both have to agree the the terms of such an agreement.
First of all, it is a good rule of thumb not to take legal advice from persons who (a) aren't lawyers, and (b) have an adverse interest to yours. The recording should be very useful to you in a variety of ways.
Of course, even if the owner is sincere in his belief that the recording is inadmissible as evidence, and, going a bit farther, even if he were correct as to that issue, the reason you took the recording to the supervisor who presented it to the owner was not to obtain his legal opinion as to the law of evidence, but, rather, to demonstrate the sexual harassment and hostile work environment at your workplace. His refusal to so much as listen to the recording only compounds the wrongdoing at your place of employment.
It's time for you to seek an attorney.
Good luck to you.
Michael S. Haber is a New York attorney. As such, his responses to posted inquiries, such as the one above, are limited to his understanding of law in the jurisdiction in which he practices and not to any other jurisdiction. In addition, no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice, nor to constitute the existence of an attorney/client or other contractual or fiduciary relationship, inasmuch as rendering legal advice involves the ability of the attorney to ask appropriate questions of the person seeking such advice and to thus gather appropriate information. In addition, an attorney/client relationship is formed only by specific agreement. The purpose of this answer is to provide the questioner with general information, not to outline specific legal rights and remedies.
Criminal Defense Attorney
Everyone in Oregon should be careful about recording conversations. ORS 165.540 makes it generally illegal for a person to "obtain or attempt to obtain the whole or any part of a conversation by means of any device, contrivance, machine or apparatus, whether electrical, mechanical, manual or otherwise, if not all participants in the conversation are specifically informed that their conversation is being obtained."
In shorter, smaller words, it's generally illegal to record a conversation unless everyone is told the conversation is being recorded.
Family Law Attorney
There are many reasons why the recording may be helpful, however, you may have in fact violated the law by recording a conversation. Nevertheless, it appears you have taken the necessary steps with regards to your complaints about the supervisor's behavior.
I recommend consulting an attorney.
I represent employees regularly.
It's unfortunate fact of life that there are some unethical supervisors, and some business owners who simply don't want to be bothered, or ignore this type of behavior. The fact that you may have unwittingly violated the law by recording a conversation does not mean the supervisor or owner can ignore the content of the recording. The evidence still exists, and they know about the behaviors.
Also, to put your mind at ease, I've had a lot of experience with criminal law, and I would be somewhat surprised if the police, or the District attorney, would be interested in charging you with any crimes. They have a lot more things to worry about than that.
I agree with a prior answer that you need to make a record of what you've done, and what you've told the supervisor and business owner. I would suggest you talk to an employment lawyer as well, to make sure that you don't take any missteps here.
If you decide to proceed without a lawyers advice for now, then I would start any correspondence to the supervivosr and owner with..." As I reported to you in detail two weeks ago..." .
If you are termianted, you will have various valid causes of action. Against the harasser, and against the business for retaliation.