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NY Court: Government Can Only Track Employees With GPS During Work Hours

Four years ago, state investigators became convinced that a New York Labor Department official was stepping out when he was supposed to be working, so they put a GPS tracking device in the wheel well of his car and tracked him for a month.

After being terminated from his job for 11 misconduct charges, Michael Cunningham is moving closer to getting his job back as the state’s high court ruled the Inspector General’s Office overstepped its boundaries by tracking Cunningham’s movements at night, weekends and on vacation.

“Where an employer conducts a GPS search without making a reasonable effort to avoid tracking an employee outside of business hours, the search as a whole must be considered unreasonable,” wrote Court of Appeals Judge Robert Smith regarding the case.

The Court of Appeals did say that the government can use GPS devices to track employees, but only during work hours, the New York Daily News reported. 

“Before this decision, the government was claiming the authority to use GPS devices 24-7,” said New York Civil Liberties Union senior attorney, Corey Stoughton. “The government cannot pry into the private and personal lives of its employees.”

He added: "This very clearly establishes the principle that the government cannot engage in GPS surveillance of public employees unless they are confident they can limit it to times the employee is on the clock.”

The GPS device revealed, among other things, that Cunningham was visiting his secretary’s apartment when they were both supposed to be at work. When Cunningham, a 28-year veteran of the department, was let go, he was making $115,000 annually.

Sources: The New York Daily News, The Wall Street Journal


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