He also kept me informed of the proceeding every step of the way; I thought I had my own personal company attorney.
– G&J Trucking, Employment Client

Employer’s Hacking of Employee’s Email Account Is a Privacy Violation

The plaintiff an administrative assistant to the Athletic Director of a public school district in Tulsa, Oklahoma, alleged that she had reported the Director and two Assistant Directors as misappropriating funds.

 Shortly after she made these reports, she was terminated. She grieved her termination.

During the grievance process, the plaintiff was contacted by the cyber-crimes division of the Tulsa Police Department, who informed her that her private email account had been hacked. 

 She filed suit, alleging that the Director and two Assistant Directors intentionally obtained access to her private emails and used the information that they unlawfully obtained in order to pursue the recommendation to terminate her employment.  She brought several claims, including constitutional claims under the 1st and 4th Amendments, statutory claims under the federal and state wiretapping laws, and state tort claims.  The defendants moved to dismiss. The court denied the employer’s Motion.

 1st, the plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment claim survived dismissal.  The court found that she had adequately pleaded that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy in her personal email account and that the hacking constituted an unlawful search and seizure of her account and/or emails in the account.

2nd: her privacy claim survived for the same reasons.  Basically, the court found that having your private email hacked and then the contents used against you in proceedings to have you terminated from your employment would be a “highly offensive” intrusion to a reasonable person.  This was further supported by the fact that the Tulsa Police Department considered her to be a victim of cyber-crime.

3rd: the claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress survived, again, largely for the same reason.  The court concluded that the conduct could be plausibly deemed outrageous in nature.

While encouraging, the employee in here was also a government worker. As a private employee, there is no expectation of privacy in the workplace, unless you have a state law saying otherwise. 

 

Murphy v. Spring, No. 13-cv-96-TCK-PJC (N.D. Okla. Sept. 12, 2013)

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