'Is That Even Legal?': Internet Backs Worker When Boss Listened in on Break

Everyone has been on a call with a customer service representative and heard "this call may be recorded for quality assurance." But one such phone worker had their boss listen in while they were on a break—and were scolded for playing video games.

In the popular subreddit r/antiwork, u/recyyklops shared a post that has gotten over 10,000 upvotes and 1,000 comments about just such a situation. In the post, they explain that their job uses the software Five9 to answer customer calls and chats. The software does grant supervisors the ability to listen in on calls—even while on hold.

"However, I just had a meeting with my manager, and she said that I am being given a verbal warning because she said she was able to hear me playing a video game, even when it was on my break," u/recyyklops wrote.

"I am not in the phone or chat queue, so that tells me that she is able to just listen to me all the time? Being on break aside, is that even legal without telling me?" he asked.

The poster clarified that they had not installed the game on company property. They were playing on their own PC, while their work is done on a laptop provided by the company.

"While we won't speculate or comment on the software or organizational policies that were involved in this specific instance, Five9 does offer Quality Management (QM) tools that help organizations understand the full experience their customers receive by capturing and evaluating interactions across voice and digital channels," Allison Wilson
Five9's director of corporate communications told Newsweek.

"This includes call recording features that capture voice and screen recordings and digital channel transcripts during customer interactions. It also includes tools for monitoring agent interactions, desktop activity, and idle agent activity, virtually, in real time, with the ability to provide coaching behind the scenes, or assist directly as needed," she continued.

"All these capabilities can be turned off and are set this way as default so that customers can determine their preferences and stay compliant with their organizational requirements." Wilson concluded.

five9 monitoring boss surveillance video game legal
A man said his boss scolded him for playing a video game on his own computer while on a break from work. iStock/Getty

Though employees might find it upsetting, employers have a lot of leeway when it comes to surveilling workers, according to WorkplaceFairness.org, though there are still restrictions. For example, while a workplace can use visible cameras to record employees—even if employees don't know they're being recorded. But if the workplace uses hidden cameras and an employee sues, the company would have to provide extra reasoning to convince the judge the company is in the right.

Similarly, while an employer would need a reason to legally audio record an employee, WorkplaceFairness.org says that federally, it's legal to record audio on any individual as long as it's neither used to commit a crime, nor the secret recording of a union meeting. However, individual states have their own additional guidelines on top of these.

While debates over the legality raged in the comments, a few people offered their own low-tech solutions.

"Put tape over the Mic when not working. Any kind of tape will work. No need to disable or turn anything off," u/MalaktheSD suggested.

"Also unplugging your work computer from your internet connection and if they ask say your land lord said the internet company was working in your area or a bad wind storm that night," u/Apocalypse_Jesus420 said.

"Move the computer to another room and set a very loud fan right by the mic every time you go on break," u/NerdyGuyRanting offered.

Though u/fulltimedude went one better, saying, "Play one of those annoying videos like the one that goes TROLOLOL for 10 hours and just play it every break, obviously put some headphones in or something so you don't go insane".

If someone feels that their employer has violated their right to privacy, WorkplaceFairness.org says they should contact either their state's labor department or an employment attorney.

Update (3/15/2022, 5:10 p.m.): This article has been updated to include comment from Five9.