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Employee Privacy Rights Violation

Read the 2 cases below and respond to each case. Please Include references

Case #1
The FBI received a tip that an employee of an IT company was accessing child pornography from his workplace computer. When approached by the FBI, the company confirmed that the employee had regularly visited the web sites. Company officials entered the employee's office in the evening and made copies of the contents of his computer's hard drive. All of the computers in the workplace were the property of the employer, and the employer was able to monitor all employees' Internet activity. When they were hired, employees were told that their computer should not be used for personal business. The employee was the only user of the office, and it was kept locked. A password created by the employee was needed t use the computer. After the employee was arrested and charged with crimes, he argued that the FBI had violated his constitutional rights by searching his computer without a warrant.

Question: Did this employee have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of his work computer? Did the government violate his constitutional rights by conducting an illegal search?

Case #2
School officials suspected that a physical education teacher was stealing money from students. Two hidden video cameras were placed in his office. The office was also used by other gym teachers and was where the teachers changed their clothes. The office was located in the boys' locker room and was accessible only by walking through the locker room. The cameras recorded and stored camera images for thirty days. It was unclear whether any school officials actually watched any live images from the cameras or reviewed the tapes. When a teacher discovered the cameras, he sued.

Question: Were the privacy rights of the teachers violated? Provide the rationale in support of your answer.

Solution Preview

Case #1: Did this employee have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of his work computer? Did the government violate his constitutional rights by conducting an illegal search?

Admittedly, in spite of the existence of many laws safeguarding the rights of both employer and employee in the use of employer provided technology devices, what constitute the violation of these rights are still not very clear. Fortunately for us, there have been several cases that have made a jurisprudence on this issue.

One of these cases is Watkins v. L. M. Berry & Co. where employee-plaintiff Carmie Watkins sued employer-defendant Berry Co. for monitoring a personal call. Though Berry Co. explicitly permits the use of work telephones for personal calls, employees were not told that such calls would be monitored. The Court of Appeals judged that:
"Consent is not to be cavalierly implied. Title III expresses a strong purpose to protect individual privacy by strictly limiting the occasion on which interception may lawfully take place . . . . [K]nowledge of the capability of monitoring alone cannot be considered implied consent."

What this means for our current case is that it is not enough for the IT company to claim that the suing employee had been informed about the prohibition of using office computer for personal business. The law requires that employers also explicitly inform their employees that such personal uses are monitored and the data being monitored will be stored. The case of Watkins v. L. M. Berry & Co. is clear that monitoring employee usage of office computers is an ordinary course of business but it is also clear that whether the interception of personal use is also in the ordinary course of business is to be debatable, usually in a court of law.

We can therefore argue that the employee have reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of his work computer since the prohibition was on the use of the said work computer for personal use, but there was no ...

Solution Summary

This response comments on two separate cases discussing whether each scenario has violated employee privacy rights.

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