Category: Right To Privacy

A Whole New Meaning to Swabbing the Poop Deck–Genetic Non-Discrimination Act Violation

Georgia storage company, Atlas Logistics Group asked employees to swab—then got sued. An employee (or possibly employees) for the company began “habitually defecating” in their Atlanta warehouse. Atlas attempted to figure out who it was, but eventually got slapped with a hefty price tag for their methods.

Atlas had some employees undergo a cheek swap so that they could compare DNA samples to that found in the excrement. The samples were sent to a laboratory where technicians worked to locate the employee in question. What the company neglected to realize, however, was that gathering an employee’s DNA for analysis violated the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or more fondly known as “GINA.”

Two employees, Jack Lowe and Dennis Reynolds, took offense to their DNA samples being tested. Though they did not match the DNA of the fecal matter around the warehouse, Lowe and Reynolds filed suit against the employers for requesting their genetic information. The company contested the facts of Lowe and Reynolds’ allegations; they argued that “genetic information” is defined as “information related to an individual’s propensity for disease.”

The court sided with the plaintiffs stating that requesting the swabs was, in fact, requesting genetic information that is protected by federal law. At trial, the jury awarded the plaintiffs $2.25 million. $1.75 million of that total was for punitive damages.

Source: Jack Lowe and Dennis Reynolds v. Atlas Logistics Group; ohioemployerlawblog.com

Facebook Likes May Not be Worth the Job

We live in an exhausting world of social media. Whether it be on your computer, tablet, phone, social media has reached far into our lives, even to include our jobs. It is easy to feel anonymous in your social media postings, even though your name is attached. There is so much social media white noise that there’s no reason to stick out. Your employer will probably never see you online, right? It might be time to think again.

A flight attendant for the budget carrier, Spirit Airlines, is out of a job because of Facebook posts that a passenger located. The flight attendant had gone down to the tarmac joined by others (not confirmed if any of them had authority to be down on the tarmac). The flight attendant climbed into a side jet engine well and posed for several pictures in front of the turbine blades.

A passenger getting on to the flight saw the flight attendant and her companion snapping pictures, and grew concerned for the attendant’s safety as well as the safety of the plane. Trying to confirm whether or not this was part of a new pre-flight check, the passenger located the flight attendant’s Facebook page (using the employee’s name tag), and found that the photos were posted on the site. One even served as the employee’s profile picture. A comment on that photo from the flight attendant joked that she could be fired for this picture.

Spirit Airlines issued a statement saying, “the activity portrayed in the photo absolutely goes against Spirit policy.” The photos, and then eventually the entire profile, was taken down by the flight attendant. Right after the photos disappeared and while the page was still active, the flight attendant posted a quote saying, “Your wings already exist, all you have to do is fly.”

This is the latest reminder to employees that most states in this country are at will, and even a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter posting can serve as fodder for termination. Anything from photos to comments to rants might the something employers see and take action on. Remember, if you call in sick and a picture surfaces of you wine tasting in the next state over, it might not sit well with your boss if they see. Same with friending/following your boss or supervisor, then posting a rant about how much you dislike them—it never turns out well.

Source: ABC News & Yahoo.com

When Your Employer is Watching Your Every Move – Literally

Myrna Arias was a sales executive in Bakersfield for a money transfer service called Intermex. Upon working for the company Arias was issued a company iPhone. The company required employees to download a particular clock in/clock out application loaded on the phone that became the center of Arias’ issues with the company.

When Arias inquired about the app, her boss admitted that the application still tracked the employees’ whereabouts through GPS tracking even after the employees “clocked out.” The boss, John Stubits, bragged that he knew other details about Arias’ whereabouts and habits when she was not working (i.e. he “knew how fast she was driving specific moments”). Arias and other co-workers expressed their discomfort at being tracked 24 hours a day, especially when she was not working.

Arias uninstalled the app after she told Stubits she believed it to be illegal. Stubits’ reply to his employee’s concern was that she “should tolerate the illegal intrusion…” After she uninstalled the app, she was terminated. She met all quotas and had no performance issues, so the application issue was on the forefront of her termination.

After the termination, Arias filed a lawsuit for invasion of privacy, retaliation, and unfair business practices. She is seeking in excess of $500,000 for damages and back pay for being monitored on her days off. According to the suit, “her manager made it clear that he was using the program to continuously monitor her, during company as well as personal time.”

Source: arstechnica.com

Image Source: Apple

All the Days of our West Hollywood Lives

This is a tale of soap operatic proportions. Let’s meet the characters of this story, in fair West Hollywood where we set our scene.

First, there is Ian Owens, a deputy to a city council man of West Hollywood. He is accused of bugging a co-worker’s office to prove her of wrongdoing.

Enter the co-worker, Fran Soloman, who is the deputy to another councilman that works with Owens’s boss. She is accused of soliciting unethical campaign contributions for her boss from wealthy developers.

Now comes the two bosses at the heart of the matter. Owens’s boss was Councilman John Duran. He is accused of having a sexual encounter with Owens and then hiring him after they met on Grindr, a dating app for homosexual men. Afterwards, Duran purportedly continued his attempts at a sexual relationship with Owens, despite Owens’s consistent rebuffs.

Soloman’s boss was Councilman John Heilman. Heilman isn’t directly accused of everything but is swept up in this dramatic tale.

So here’s how the story unfolds. Owens, suspecting Soloman was up to no good, reported it to his boss, Duran. Duran refused to entertain the idea because he was upset at Owens for not engaging in a relationship with him. So Owens took matters into his own hands and became what he calls the “whistle blower.” He placed surveillance bugs in Soloman’s office, though Owens’s is now claiming he just heard her through the thin walls. Regardless, after listening to these conversations one way or another, Owens created a spreadsheet of quotes from Soloman’s phone conversations in her office. That spreadsheet was then emailed to city residents and the city’s resident bloggers.

Owens had emailed out the spreadsheet under an alias, but metadata from the document revealed Owens was the creator. He has since been suspended, on paid administrative leave while the city investigates the allegations from all sources. His attorney is claiming that he is being wrongly punished because he was blowing the whistle on Soloman’s wrongdoings.

Owens’s attorney is demanding that his client be restored to his position, outlining the whistleblowing status of his client as well as the sexual encounters between Owens and Duran.

We’ll keep you updated on the every growing drama that is the West Hollywood City Council.

Source: Los Angeles Times

After a Hack like Sony’s, a Lawsuit is No Surprise

Yesterday, two former Sony Pictures Entertainment employees sued the company for failing to protect employee data. The suit was filed in federal court in Los Angeles, alleging the entertainment studio failed to secure both computer networks in place from the hackers.

The joint plaintiffs, who are suing on behalf of a similarly situated class, are asking for punitive damages along with identity theft insurance, assistance for those whose information was leaked, and credit monitoring services.

It is rumored that the hack was retaliation for the upcoming release of “The Interview,” a controversial film that follows a fictitious plot to assassinate North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un. Last month, hackers released a slew of sensitive data including former and current employees’ social security numbers and embarrassing emails exchanged among executives.

The named plaintiffs are Michael Corona and Christina Mathis and the defendant is Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.

Source: Reuters