And now in a delightful new instalment of a series I just made up right now — Why Isn’t This Illegal? — we have an employer allegedly firing a woman for not wanting to be tracked after-hours on her work phone.
A California woman is suing her former employer for invasion of privacy, labour infractions, and wrongful termination after she was fired, allegedly for uninstalling a GPS-enabled app called Xora that tracked her constantly, even on the weekends and in the middle of the night.
Myrna Arias, a sales rep for wire-transfer company Intermex, was expected to keep her phone on at all times to field calls from clients. Arias says that her boss, John Stubit, admitted that he tracked her off-hours, and “bragged that he knew how fast she was driving at specific moments.”
She didn’t have a problem with getting tracked during work hours, but voiced a complaint that tracking all of her movements made her feel like a prisoner.
So: Why Isn’t This Illegal
The legality of employee tracking this extensive — not to mention allegedly firing employees for resisting tracking — is very unclear here.
The idea of mandatory constant surveillance as a requisite for gainful employment is objectively creepy. Getting your whereabouts digitally tracked 24/7 by employers keen on humiliating you for your after-hours choices couldn’t sound like more of a plot point from a capitalist horror dystopia movie if Katniss farted it on a Kindle. But when employer property rights clash with employee privacy rights, it usually ends pretty well for bosses. “My property, my tracking rules,” tends to beat out reasonable expectations of privacy. That said, California has stronger regulations on phone tracking than most states, so that may work in Arias’ favour.
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced a bill last year called the Location Privacy Protection Act of 2014, and one of the stipulations would require companies to inform employees about how they monitor them. However, the bill didn’t get past a Senate hearing, and there’s no federal law here that will make this a slam-drunk case. We’ll have to wait and see.