What Is and What Isn’t Considered Invasion of Privacy?

If you are a California employee, you may wonder what your expectations are in regard to your privacy in the workplace. Under California law, you have a right to privacy in four situations and can hold an employer liable if he or she violates your reasonable expectation to privacy.

What is an Invasion of Privacy?

Intrusion of Solitude

If your employer intrudes upon your solitude or your private affairs outside of work, you could hold your employer liable for intrusion of solitude. If your employer’s actions would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, your claim would likely be successful.

The law often associates this intrusion with peeping Toms and people snooping through private affairs. For example, if your employer intercepts your private phone calls outside of the workplace, you could hold him or her liable for intrusion of solitude. If he or she goes through your private emails on your personal phone, you could also hold your employer liable.

Appropriation of Name or Likeness

If your employer uses your name or likeness for his or her benefit without your permission, you could file a claim for invasion of privacy. You may need to review your contract to ensure that you did not waive this right to your likeness. This type of claim is most common with celebrities.

For example, say you are a well-known local musician in your free time. Your employer asks you if he or she could use a photograph for you in an upcoming advertising campaign. You decline because you are not comfortable with this idea. However, the employer decides to use your image anyway.

Public Disclosure of Private Facts

If your employer publicly reveals information about you that is not of concern to your workplace, you could file a claim for invasion of privacy. If the information would be offensive to a reasonable person if made public, it will qualify under this claim.

For example, say that you disclose to your employer that your partner is in jail for dealing drugs and you need to take some time off to get your affairs in order. Your employer tells your coworkers while you are gone about the situation.

False Light

This type of claim is similar to defamation. You can sue your employer for the publication of information that is misleading, but not technically false. Your employer must have made a publication about you in reckless disregard that placed you in a false light and would be offensive or embarrassing to a reasonable person.

For example, say that you tell your employer that you will take time off work to seek treatment for substance abuse. Your employer sends out a memo saying that you are a raging alcoholic and not to serve you alcohol at company events. While you may struggle with alcohol abuse, this would be an invasion of privacy.

What is Not an Invasion of Privacy?

If the invasion of privacy claim does not fall within those four categories or you did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the situation, it probably will not qualify for this claim.

  • You leave a letter in your workplace’s lunchroom and one of your employers picks up the letter and reads it. You do not have an expectation of privacy in this situation, since you left out the letter in a public space.
  • Your employer calls you outside of work repeatedly, but stops once you ask him or her to stop calling you during those hours. However, if your employer continues to call after you ask him or her to respect your privacy, he or she may be invading your privacy.
  • Your employer reads your workplace emails and he or she had each employee sign a technology waiver beforehand which stated his or her intention to read your emails. Since you are using company technology, the email account is not a form of private property.

Have you experienced invasion of privacy in the workplace? Legal options are available and you could file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. Contact a Los Angeles employment lawyer as soon as possible to begin the claims process.