What are the chances: A group of employees exchange disparaging text messages over their phones about a co-worker, and then that co-worker ends up receiving one of the employee’s iPads, which had stored the mobile exchange through iMessage. According to the New Jersey Law Journal, this was the case in the Garden State, which resulted in the termination of three Anheuser-Busch employees for “violation of corporate policy regarding use of company equipment” and a fourth, reprimanded.
Two of the three terminated employees, Victor Nascimento and Audry Yule, filed a lawsuit earlier this year. Their lawyer, Christopher Lenzo, stated to the Law Journal that he had contacted the St. Louis-based employer’s legal department in October 2014, informing it that the company had “breached the employees’ constitutional right to privacy in out-of-work communications and conduct.” Furthermore, he invited the company to engage in settlement talks, but that invitation was not accepted.
Per the Law Journal, the “complaint alleges common-law wrongful discharge in violation of a clear mandate of public policy.” It also contends that the employer violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination when it treated the plaintiffs, who aren’t African American, differently than African American employees, one of whom was reprimanded, not fired, over the text messages.
Lenzo stated to the Law Journal that the suit is a “novel application of the law,” but he doesn’t think “it’s a stretch.” He added, “It’s a fairly well-established set of principles.”
The defendant filed a notice of removal to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, citing a “complete diversity of parties” and that the “amount in controversy” exceeds $75,000.
Per the Law Journal, Lenzo expects the company to seek arbitration. He stated:
“People shouldn’t lose their jobs over what they say in the privacy of their own homes.
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