How much privacy should employees have at work? The Ice Loop recently found a story on the Wall Street Journal reporting that employees sometimes have more privacy rights than they might expect when it comes to the corporate e-mail server, and that some courts are showing more consideration for employees who feel their employer has violated their privacy electronically.
Among the federal and state circuits in the past year, there were notable examples of disputes between employees and employers related to the employee’s Internet activities on blogs or other social networking sites. In Shaver v. Cooleemee Volunteer Fire Department, for example, plaintiff William Russell Shaver brought wrongful termination claims against his former employer, which apparently terminated him in part based on his Myspace page and the comments on a blog shared with his wife.
Another notable case last year involving an employer’s intrusion into the online affairs of its employees was that of Pietrylo v. Hillstone Restaurant Group, which actually reached a federal jury trial earlier in the summer of 2009. In a surprising verdict, the Pietrylo jury found in favor of the employees Pietrylo and Marino, and against employer Hillstone, for violating the Federal Stored Communications Act and New Jersey Wire Tapping and Electronic Surveillance laws.
The facts in Pietrylo were as follows: Hillstone operated a Houston’s restaurant in Hackensack, N.J. Hillstone’s employees created a Myspace group the purpose of which was to “vent about any BS we deal with [at] work without any outside eyes spying in on us…Let the s— talking begin.” After the formation of the group, one employee accessed the site in the presence of a manager, who then informed other managers about the site. Given that the Myspace group site included sexual remarks about restaurant management and other offensive content about customers, drugs, and violence, Pietrylo and Marino were fired, and eventually filed suit against Houston’s bringing a litany of claims.
Although the jury award in Pietrylo was not significant, Pietrylo provides employers with a firm caution about intruding into the personal affairs of their employees online.
For the original WSJ story, please click here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125859862658454923.html?mod=rss_Today’s_Most_Popular
To obtain more information about handling employees who blog or engage in other social networking activities, please contact Ice Miller or email@example.com.