April 1997

Workplace Labor Update - Employee Lawfully Fired For Making Secret Tape Recordings – April 1997

2 min

Maryland's Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Statute prohibits the recording of conversations without the permission of all of the parties. Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. Art. &#sect;10-402. Based upon that law, a federal judge in Maryland recently dismissed an employee's retaliation claim, holding that the employee's surreptitiously recording conversations between himself and his supervisors was a valid reason for termination. Bodoy v. North Arundel Hospital, 945 F.Supp. 890 (D. Md. 1996).

Angelo Bodoy was employed by North Arundel Hospital as a maintenance mechanic. He received numerous criticisms of his work performance, including counseling sessions, written warnings, and negative performance evaluations. Because he apparently believed he was being unfairly disciplined based upon his race and national origin, Bodoy filed numerous discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Subsequently, Bodoy began secretly taping conversations with supervisors in an attempt to obtain incriminating evidence to supply to the EEOC. Although Bodoy eventually received permission from the hospital's vice president to tape record their conversations, it was discovered that he already had recorded conversations with other supervisors without their permission. When confronted by his supervisors, Bodoy initially denied making any secret recordings, but eventually admitted to taping at least some conversations without permission. The hospital terminated Bodoy shortly after it learned of his illegal recording of conversations.

After being fired from his position, Bodoy filed a lawsuit against the hospital, alleging, among other claims, retaliation for complaining about alleged discrimination. In order to establish a claim of retaliation, a plaintiff must be able to establish that "but for" his protected complaints about discrimination, he would not have suffered an adverse action. Thus, in order to avoid dismissal of his case, Bodoy had to prove that he was fired because he filed numerous EEOC charges. Despite the fact that Bodoy made numerous complaints of discrimination, the court ruled that he could not establish a retaliation claim. The Hospital was justified in firing Bodoy for making the unauthorized recordings, said the court, noting that his engagement in this conduct was in clear violation of Maryland law. The Hospital had offered a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for Bodoy's discharge, observed the court, and Bodoy's retaliation claim was dismissed.