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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 112650
Experience:  20+ Years of Employment Law Experience
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I was terminated in a complex case that is about to enter

Customer Question

Hello,I was terminated in a complex case that is about to enter litigation. I was terminated for improper use of electronic communications, and was an employee of a local government agency, with Federal grant funding in community development. I had been promoted from intern through Assistant Director in 3.5 years with nothing but accolades for my work - not a single write up, zero disciplinary action, and zero mention of any problem whatsoever until my termination meeting. I was fired directly after filing for FMLA for treatment of narcolepsy, and was also put under scrutiny, and discriminated against for a perceived psychological disability as my boss made it clear that she believed many of my symptoms were psychological in nature rather than physiological. She also attempted to direct my medical care, demanding reports from medical visits and expressing displeasure at the coarse I was taking. I was denied accommodation under ADA and FMLA and discriminated against as such and have strong evidence to support these claims.At the heart of it though is that I was fired because of a cell phone backup that landed on my work computer, thus becoming company property. We had a small casual office and were required to use our personal devices extensively to meet job demands. I upgraded to an android phone rather than apple, and our office used google apps, thus the phone synced to my computer as I had not yet fully understood how the new OS worked. Amongst the data that was synced were personal photo and texts that my boss found objection to relating to my after work conduct.My question relates to privacy laws however, and I realize there are little protections for personal privacy in the workplace, but in a situation where the messages and photos were created on my personal device on my personal time, and inadvertently uploaded to my work computer, is there anything in the law that would protect those as personal? Further, the text messages that she found objectionable were 1600 messages down on the file that was downloaded. She had to scan hundreds of pages of personal and private information before finding something she objected to. I've read that some privacy laws, despite lacking protection for personal privacy in this case note that if an employer opens a file that is 100% clearly of a personal and private nature that they should thus stop reviewing it. It seems that if she scanned hundreds of pages of texts prior to coming across something objectionable, then some invasion of privacy has occurred. Is there anything in the law that can help me in this instance? My lawyers are fighting the discrimination/ada/fmla charges, but haven't really wanted to touch this issue thusfar.Also, if the official reason for my firing was inappropriate use of electronic communication, but there's no mention of the content that was found objectionable, is the content then applicable in court or other discussions>?Thanks!
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 10 months ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.
As you realize now, there is little privacy in the workplace and once your phone uploaded your phone data to your employer's computer all privacy rights were lost, since the employer has a right to examine anything on their property. This is the reason your attorneys do not want to fight this battle, since it is one that the law gives the owner of the computer and/or computer server the rights to inspect everything on the computers and servers.

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