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ACLU says tracking state employee was unconstitutional

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An American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit filed on behalf of a worker fired by the New York Department of Labor (NYDOL) for falsifying time sheets may test the limits of employer surveillance of employees.

Michael Cunningham, who worked at the NYDOL for 22 years, was terminated after state troopers placed a GPS tracking device on his personal car during a 2008 probe. Investigators said GPS data showed that Cunningham was conducting personal business on state time.

Cunningham claims the GPS information was flawed.

The ACLU maintains that attaching the GPS without a warrant violated the Constitution’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. Although state law allows a limited exception to the warrant requirement, the ACLU asserts the department’s action went well beyond those limits.

Since the Cunningham investigation concluded, the state’s highest court ruled that police may not attach GPS devices to suspects’ vehicles without first obtaining a warrant.

This lawsuit would test whether that decision applies to state employees as well.

Note: Although courts grant employers wide latitude in monitoring employee behavior, always check with your attorney to see what is permissible. A quick phone call is cheaper than years of litigation.

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