Recording Conversations at Work is Illegal in Chicago

Unless you have all the parties' consent

By Super Lawyers staff | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on February 24, 2023

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Workplace disputes can arise for a wide range of different reasons. As an employee, you could even end up in a situation where you feel as though you are being misrepresented or mistreated by a customer, co-worker, or a supervisor. You may be wondering: Can you record a conversation at work in Illinois?

The answer is ‘no’—at least not without the express permission of all parties involved. Here, you will find an overview of the Illinois eavesdropping law and the implications for recording conversations in the workplace.

Illinois Eavesdropping Statute: Two-Party Consent to Record Private Conversations

For the most part, recording laws are governed at the state level. Most U.S. states are one-party consent jurisdiction. Only one party to a conversation needs to give a consent for a recording to be lawful. However, Illinois is a two-party consent state. In many circumstances, it is illegal to record a private conversation in Illinois unless all parties have given consent.

Illinois enforces its two-party consent law under its eavesdropping statute (720 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/14-2(a)(1)). According to the statute, a person commits eavesdropping when they use an eavesdropping device “in a surreptitious manner” for the purpose of overhearing, transmitting, or recording all or part of a private conversation to which they are not a party.

If the person using an eavesdropping device does so with the consent of all of the parties to the private conversation, they have not made a surreptitious recording or committed eavesdropping under the statute. Additionally, if the person makes a recording in a public area such as a park or market where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, they have not committed eavesdropping under the statute.

What is an eavesdropping device? According to the statute, it is “any device capable of being used to hear or record oral conversation or intercept or transcribe electronic communications.” Eavesdropping devices may be used to record in-person conversations or electronic communications by telephone or other means. So, an eavesdropping device could be many kinds of recording device. Audio recordings of cell phone calls, video recordings, and wiretapping are common examples.

A secret, nonconsensual workplace recording would be considered a form of eavesdropping under the Illinois law. You can be charged with a crime for using an eavesdropping device to record a private conversation without consent.

Be Extremely Careful: You Must Have the Consent of All Parties to Record Conversations

As an employee, it is understandable that you may want to record certain conservations in the workplace. If you are involved in a dispute or you feel as though you are being misrepresented in some way, the documentation that a recording provides seems useful. It might even provide the “smoking gun” evidence that you feel like you need to bring a claim.

Nonetheless, secretly recording a private workplace conversation is a serious mistake in Chicago. Illinois has one of the harshest two-party consent laws in the entire country. Here are three things you need to know:

  1. You generally cannot use unlawfully recorded evidence in an employment law case;
  2. You could face criminal liability for making an unlawful workplace recording; and
  3. You could face a civil claim by an employer or co-worker if you make an unlawful recording.

You can take detailed notes about what happens to you in the workplace. You can also save correspondence, such as emails, letters, or text messages—but you should not record a co-worker or supervisor without consent.

If you have any specific questions about your legal rights or your legal options, reach out to an experienced Illinois employment & labor attorney. A lawyer can help you take action to address the underlying issue without exposing yourself to serious legal liability by making an unlawful workplace recording.

For more information, see our overview of employment and labor law.

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