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We are Working in a Virtual, Video-Conferencing World – But What About Wiretapping?

Businesses and other organizations often have a need or desire to record telephone conversations related to their business interests and customer dealings; however, this practice is not always permissible as federal and state laws vary on this issue. Knowing and understanding your jurisdiction’s rules and regulations on this practice is essential to remaining in compliance with the law. 

Under the federal Wiretap Act, phone conversations typically may be recorded as long as one party to the conversation consents. Exceptions to this general rule exist, however, including when the consenting party intends to use the recording for criminal or tortious purposes. 

With that said, a state law that varies with the federal by requiring a more stringent two-party consent standard will supersede federal law. Moreover, state laws which do follow the federal one-party standard, but address and outline allow different or additional exceptions to the standard will rule in that regard as well. 

It should further be noted that these laws extend to virtual meetings as well, including those conducted through video-conferencing technologies such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc. — even if the purpose of the meeting is for educational and/or training programs. As popularity in the use of these platforms is on the rise, businesses should be mindful of the civil and/or criminal liabilities associated with the use of these technologies, particularly when seeking to record sessions.

So, what should you do if you believe that you’ve been recorded? Can you ask if you’re being recorded, and does the person answering have to be honest in their response? Unsurprisingly, the answers to these questions vary by jurisdiction as well depending on how strict of a standard your state follows. A one-party consent state has different and more lenient requirements than a two-party consent state. 

Penalties for failing to follow any of the above-mentioned federal and/or state wiretapping laws are serious, so ensuring notice and consent before recording as required can mean the difference between compliance and potential fines as well as prison time. 

Knowing and understanding the implications and permissibility of recording phone and/or video conferencing conversations is increasingly important in light of ongoing stay-at-home orders leading to the growing use of these technologies. If you have any questions regarding the scope of your specific jurisdiction’s law on these issues, please contact Amanda L. Waesch, Esq. at alwaesch@bmdllc.com.

HHS Announces an Additional $20 Billion In Provider Relief Grants

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) announced an additional $20 billion in new funding for providers on October 1, 2020. Eligible providers include those that have already received Provider Relief Fund payments as well as previously ineligible providers, such as those who began practicing in 2020, and an expanded group of behavioral health providers confronting the emergence of increased mental health and substance use issues exacerbated by the pandemic. The new Phase 3 General Distribution is designed to balance an equitable payment of 2% of annual revenue from patient care for all applicants plus an add-on payment to account for revenue losses and expenses attributable to COVID-19.

DOL Proposes New Rule Regarding Independent Contractor Status - But How Will the Election Affect Its Future?

On September 22, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a new proposed rule regarding employee and independent contractor status under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The full text of the proposed rule is available here. The rule's drafters intend to reduce uncertainty and enhance the precision and predictability of the long-standing "economic reality" test, which currently relies on a multifactor balancing test.

Major Change to Franklin County, Ohio Eviction Process: Landlord Testimony Required

Although there is currently a nationwide temporary halt on all residential evictions through December 31, 2020 in place, the eviction process in Franklin County – which processes the highest number of evictions in the State of Ohio at approximately 18,000 a year – recently changed significantly.

UPDATE: Governor Dewine Signs HB 606 Granting Short Window of Immunity from COVID-19 Personal Injury Lawsuits

The Ohio General Assembly, in Am. Sub. H.B. No. 606, is in the final stages of passing a law that will prohibit lawsuits seeking damages from COVID-19. This includes injury, death, or loss to person or property if the lawsuits are based, in whole or in part, on the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of the coronavirus, unless the defendant in the lawsuit acted intentionally or recklessly. In circumstances where this immunity does not apply, H.B. 606 prohibits such claims being aggregated and brought as a class action.

Revised Department of Labor FFCRA Guidance, Effective September 16, 2020

In response to attacks on the legality of the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Final Rule regarding the Families First Coronavirus Act (“FFCRA” or the “Act”), which took effect in April 2020, the Department of Labor issued new guidance on Friday, September 11th to formally address ongoing questions and concerns related to the COVID-19 legislation.