In California, an individual has a right to privacy that is protected by the constitution of the state of California. However, in order to prevail in a lawsuit for an invasion of privacy, one mush have had, a legally protected privacy interest, enjoyed a reasonable expectation of privacy, and the conduct of the person causing the invasion of privacy must have caused a serious invasion of that privacy.
Thus, for instance, if an employer did not provide in an employee handbook that the employer had a right to search through e-mails, blogs, computer records and the like or to install cameras in public areas but the invasion of privacy was limited to what was necessary to ensure the safety of the employees and ensure that the company’s business was not being harmed by improper communications, and the invasion was not serious and only involved company public spaces or company electronic devices such as company computers, such an invasion of an employee’s privacy may still be without adequate remedy. Indeed, it may be difficult to find an attorney willing to take on such a case as an employer’s insurance company may well appeal a verdict that awards significant damages.
(Note, however that installing cameras in private areas such as restrooms, however, will almost always lead to a lawsuit and a settlement, even if an employer did so, allegedly to prevent the loss of business supplies). In an important California Supreme Court Case (Hernandez v. Hillsides), the court stated that workplace privacy violations focus on the nature of any intrusion upon reasonable expectations of privacy and the offensiveness or seriousness of the intrusion, including any justification or other relevant interests.
And in those instances in which an employer reserved the right in employee memos or handbooks to provide for reviewing or monitoring electronic communications during the course of company business, or on company devices, an employee’s reasonable expectation of privacy will clearly have been diminished and all but destroy the value of an invasion of privacy case unless the employer far exceeded the scope of what was reasonable and then publicly displayed the results of such monitoring activities for the purpose of humiliating an employee.
The prime case for invasion of privacy in the workplace, therefore, is where there has been no reservation in an employee handbook or in memos reserving the right of the employer to monitor electronic communications or to post cameras or conduct searches and where the employer not only performs these tasks but exceeds any legitimate business need to do so, finds materials that the employee clearly sought to keep private and then goes on to publicly divulge or show to others the fruits of these searches or monitoring methods to humiliate or embarrass an employee (and which actions are also likely to inflame a jury).
Similarly, an employer who uses the results of such monitoring to justify the firing of an employee who otherwise would not have been fired may also find themselves the subject of a claim not only for invasion of privacy, but also for discrimination or retaliation.
A recent case by the United States Supreme Court (Quon) has held that while an employee has a reasonable expectation of privacy, even though a search by an employer of an employee’s text messages constitutes a search under the Fourth amendment, such a search can be reasonable by an employer and not excessively intrusive. It can also be found, as the court did, to have a legitimate work-related purpose, not be excessive in scope and thus reasonable, especially where the employer has provided the electronic equipment to the employee and has a policy in place reserving the right of the employer to monitor all network activity, with or without notice.
Where an employer goes beyond what is reasonable and conducts searches without a work-related purpose, such an employer may still run afoul and cause an invasion of an employee’s reasonable expectation of privacy. Such an employer may also be invading the reasonable expectation of privacy expected by those persons sending e-mails to the employee whose e-mails are searched and read by the employer.
If you’ve had your privacy invaded in Southern California, call Attorney Sebastian Gibson, a Southern California experienced personal injury lawyer with over thirty years of experience both in the U.S. at (760) 776-1810 or visit our web site at www.SebastianGibsonLaw.com You can also e-mail us at SgibsonEsq@aol.com
The CA Law Firm of Sebastian Gibson is experienced in all types of personal injury, privacy and copyright infringement cases. With the Law Firm of personal injury lawyer, Sebastian Gibson on your side, we will seek the maximum amount for your case, including everything you’ve undergone.
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If you’ve been seriously injured in an accident or had your privacy invaded or had a protected right such as your privacy invaded or a copyrighted work infringed, call the Law Firm of Sebastian Gibson today at (800) 589-3202 and let us use our thirty years of trust and experience in negotiating with and standing up to insurance companies and employers to handle your case with strength and integrity.
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