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New ruling against Whole Foods may help protect workers' rights

In workplace conflicts, especially conflicts between two parties where no other witnesses were present, the dispute is often just "he-said, she-said." However, employees concerned about their rights might see more protections following a landmark ruling by the National Labor Relations Board against the popular food chain Whole Foods.

Within the Whole Foods General Information Guide for employees are a series of "Do's and Dont's." Among them is a "don't" stating that employees were not allowed to photograph or record conversations within a store "unless prior approval is received" from an executive or manager, or under the circumstance that "all parties to the conversation give their consent." Whole Foods contends that this is in place to protect employee rights, stating, "The purpose of the policy is to eliminate a chilling effect on the expression of views that may exist when one person is concerned that his or her conversation with another is being secretly recorded," according to the manual.

The National Labor Relations Board disagreed, saying that the ruling is in violation of federal law and that the policy could be used to prevent workers from documenting or taking photographs of an unsafe work environment or from recording possible employment disputes, discrimination or other misconduct.

Whole Foods disagrees with the decision, and states that they are still considering their options on how to proceed.

The complaint was first filed on behalf of the United Food and Commercial Workers union and the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago. Although a majority of states have laws allowing recordings, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington have "two party consent" laws, prohibiting one side from secretly recording a conversation. With this ruling, workers in New York may be able to further protect themselves from employment disputes by legally recording conversations that may prove a dispute or discrimination.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Your Employer Can't Stop You From Recording Conversations At Work," Dave Jamieson, Dec. 28, 2015

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