A recent New York Court of Appeals case offers guidance to employers that want to slap GPS devices on employees’ cars to monitor their activities.
The case began when executives at the New York State Department of Labor suspected that the agency’s director of staff and organizational development was leaving work early and submitting false time records. After turning to the New York Inspector General’s office for assistance, the department placed a GPS device on the director’s car.
The investigation confirmed the department’s suspicions, but the director challenged the evidence, claiming the search violated his Fourth Amendment rights to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. Because the Department of Labor is a government agency, it must abide by Fourth Amendment restrictions.
The director sued to have the GPS information suppressed in his disciplinary hearing.
The court focused on two questions: First, was the Department of Labor justified in initiating the location tracking in the first place? Second, was the location tracking reasonably related to the objectives of the search?
The court found the department was justified in placing the device on the car, but its use of the device was overly broad because it tracked his movements during nonworking hours.