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Phillips Esq.
Phillips Esq., Attorney-at-Law
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 17441
Experience:  B.A.; M.B.A.; J.D.
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I hope you can help me. I'm a federal employee who was

Customer Question

Hi -- I hope you can help me. I'm a federal employee who was subjected to discipline after a nonsupervisory coworker went through my cubicle without my knowledge and found incriminating evidence. I was wondering whether there were any charges I could bring against the fellow employee for an unauthorized search -- or, in the alternative, whether I could pressure my employer to rescind the disciplinary action because it was the "fruit of a poisonous" (i.e., unauthorized) search? Your guidance is greatly appreciated.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Phillips Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Hello: This isCustomer I am a licensed Attorney and I will be assisting you today.
Could you explain a little more?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your initial response. To elaborate, I have been subjected to disciplinary action because three co-workers (For whom I was competing for promotional opportunities) combed through file cabinets & other items in my cubicle and found some misplaced files; they then reported me to my supervisor. However, my concern is that, by going through my cubicle themselves (rather than allowing my supervisor to conduct his own investigation) my coworkers have violated my fourth-amendment rights as a federal employee. I have read the case O'Connor v. Ortega and some of its progeny and related legal commentary -- and I am hoping to build a case against my coworkers or, at the very least, challenge the disciplinary action proposed against me since it is predicated on what I consider to be an illicit search? Any guidance you could provide in this regard would be much appreciated. Thanks so very much.
Expert:  Phillips Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for the information. I am sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I was offline when responded to my information request.
Your Question:
Thank you for your initial response. To elaborate, I have been subjected to disciplinary action because three co-workers (For whom I was competing for promotional opportunities) combed through file cabinets & other items in my cubicle and found some misplaced files; they then reported me to my supervisor. However, my concern is that, by going through my cubicle themselves (rather than allowing my supervisor to conduct his own investigation) my coworkers have violated my fourth-amendment rights as a federal employee.
Response 1: That is correct. Your rights to privacy was also violated since the files were not in an "open area" and thus expectation of privacy existed and proper protocols should have been followed because your cubicle was illegally searched.
I have read the case O'Connor v. Ortega and some of its progeny and related legal commentary -- and I am hoping to build a case against my coworkers or, at the very least, challenge the disciplinary action proposed against me since it is predicated on what I consider to be an illicit search? Any guidance you could provide in this regard would be much appreciated. Thanks so very much.
Response 2: Since these are government employees, the Fourth Amendment is implicated. You can certainly argue that the disciplinary action must be vacated because of this illegal search. However, since you are a member of a Union, the grievance procedures contained in your collective bargaining agreement must be followed.

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