We hold our personal information close and have certain rights to keep it private. The right to privacy in the workplace is a genuine concern for many employees. If your employer discloses your personal information, you may entitled to legal relief to hold them accountable. This article will discuss your legal rights in Florida and answer, “Can I sue my employer for disclosing personal information?” We will also cover the complexities of employee privacy, the types of circumstances that may qualify for a case, relevant laws, and what you need to do to pursue a case, among other key information pertinent to disclosing personal information.
Understanding Employee Privacy in Florida
Legal Definition of Personal Information
When considered in a legal context, personal information can include addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, photos, and dates of birth. Additionally, medical records and electronic activity are personal information and common topics when discussing workplace privacy.
Do employees have a right to privacy in the workplace in Florida? Yes, to a certain extent.
Florida employers can generally only disclose an employee’s personal information if it is required by law or if there is a legitimate business need. As technology continues to advance, the scope of employee privacy in Florida gets more complicated, and each potential violation should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Circumstances Where You Might Have a Case
Breach of Confidentiality
Multiple situations can occur regarding breaches of confidentiality. For example, your employer disclosed your home address to an employee or other person, disclosed a misdemeanor after doing a background check to other employees or colleagues, or disclosed disciplinary information from your employment record to another employee.
Invasions of Privacy
Certain actions taken by an employer may infringe upon an employee’s privacy. For example, if an employee installs video surveillance cameras in a locker room or a restroom in the workplace and views the footage improperly. An infringement can also occur if an employer monitors your personal phone calls, even if they were made on a work phone.
Note: Private companies in Florida do have the right to monitor work computers, email, and phones, including internet usage. However, federal law prohibits monitoring personal phone calls, even if they are made on a work phone.
Disclosure of Health Information
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are strong laws protecting workplace health-related information. An employer can only disclose an employee’s medical records to managers and supervisors, safety and first-aid personnel, and investigating government officials. If information is disclosed to individuals that are not allowed under law, you may be able to sue your employer and receive compensation.
Unauthorized Disclosure of Financial Information
An employee’s financial information is typically covered under the rights of privacy as well. You may have a case if an employer discloses your salary or wage per hour details to an employee in your department without your permission. Another circumstance that could lead to legal action is if your employer does a background check and discloses your credit score information to colleagues or other workers without you knowing.
Misuse of Social Security Number (Alt text – Social security card resting on American flag)
If an employer discloses or improperly uses an employee’s Social Security Number, this could lead to multiple legal issues. A case could potentially be made for privacy invasion. Additionally, if the Social Security Number is actually used for another person or other fraudulent purposes, there may be a case of identity theft or fraud.
Release of Information Post-Termination
An employer may have ill will towards a previous employee or otherwise disregard their privacy. They may disclose something personal, such as their discipline history at the company or private medical information. In some circumstances, these disclosures are illegal, depending on the employer’s motives.
Laws Governing Privacy in the Workplace
When discussing, “Can I sue my employer for disclosing my personal information?” it is important to know which laws protect your privacy. The primary federal laws that protect employee privacy cover multiple types of personal information. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) safeguard your medical information, providing guidelines regarding the persons to whom it may be disclosed under the law.
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) prohibits employers from listening to employees’ personal voicemail messages or telephone conversations in the workplace. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act also requires employers to make reasonable efforts to protect employees’ consumer information from being misappropriated or misused. ( Alt text -Florida law book resting on desk next to gavel)
Florida Statute 119.071 exempts certain types of information that state agencies maintain from public disclosure, including financial information, medical information, and Social Security Numbers. Other Florida Statutes provide additional protections. s.119.071(4) (d) exempts home addresses and telephone numbers for people (and their families) in certain occupations, including active or former law enforcement personnel and correctional officers, active or former members of the Armed Forces, firefighters, and judges, among other occupations.
Proving Your Employer Wrongfully Disclosed Your Information
Establishing Your Privacy Expectations
Maintain your own records of employment documentation, including any related forms such as workers’ compensation and FMLA applications and documentation for requesting modifications in the workplace. Speak to your employer in a professional manner about your expectations of privacy in the workplace and gain clarity on their company policies regarding privacy and personal information.
Confirming an Infringement of Your Privacy Rights
Gather any and all related materials, real and electronic, related to your situation to demonstrate a privacy infringement, which can include:
- company handbooks or policy manuals,
- employment contracts,
- HR documentation,
- copies of emails/phone messages,
- videos, and
- any other relevant documentation.
Seek legal support to build as strong of a case as possible to prove your personal information was disclosed and your privacy rights were violated.
Demonstrating Harm from the Disclosure
Demonstrating harm to prove damages resulting from the wrongful disclosure of personal information will be specific to your situation. For example, if your Social Security Number was misappropriated, you may be able to show false accounts were set up in your credit report, causing financial trouble. If medical information was wrongfully disclosed and resulted in your termination or difficulty in finding a new job, this could demonstrate harm.
An attorney will thoroughly examine the parameters of what occurred and determine how to best present the case and the evidence to prove damages.
The Process of Suing Your Employer for a Privacy Violation
Consulting with a Florida Employment & Labor Law Attorney
Suing your employer for privacy violation is a complex employment law case. It is highly recommended to get expert legal advice in these situations.
Here are some tips when you are searching for and selecting a Florida employment law firm: (Alt text – Florida employment lawyer talking to a client about privacy violation)
- Choose an experienced employment law firm
- Choose a firm that has years of experience advocating for employee rights
- Choose a firm that has a strong track record of holding employers accountable
- Choose a firm that has a specialty in employee privacy laws
Preparing Your Case
Gather and organize all relevant materials regarding the privacy violation(s), which could consist of the following:
- employment contracts,
- employee handbooks,
- copies of applications for FMLA,
- requests for accommodation in the workplace,
- related HR documentation,
- and any other relevant materials related to your particular situation.
If you do not personally have all the work-related materials, go to your HR department, and request them.
If electronic information was involved, such as emails, make sure to save copies.
If your work email was involved, forward relevant emails to a personal email so you have a copy in the event you lose access to your work email. These can be printed as well. Save relevant voicemails, photos, and texts on your phone.
Documenting the Impact of the Disclosure
The impact of the disclosure is the central component of the case. The consequences should be thoroughly explained to prove that the disclosure of personal information caused you harm. The impact will be specific to your case.
Types of consequences or damages may include one or more of the following: bodily harm, damage to reputation or relationships, humiliation, loss of employment, business or professional opportunities, damage to or loss of property, identity theft, financial loss, and adverse effect on a credit report.
Filing a Lawsuit Against Your Employer in Florida (Alt text – Lawyer signing lawsuit paperwork)
Gathering all the information is the first step when you formally start a legal case against an employer. Using the information you have collected, a complaint must be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal commission that investigates complaints of privacy violations and other employment law violations. The EEOC will then investigate. Once the investigation is completed, they will send a Notice of Right to Sue. A request can also be submitted during the investigation process.
Once the notice is received, you only have 90 days to file a lawsuit. This time frame is determined by law and is unchangeable.
Legal negotiations will typically take place after the lawsuit is filed. If a settlement for damages cannot be reached, the case will go to court. Your attorney will lead the legal processes in bringing the case to the judge. They will advocate for you in court, presenting the evidence, questioning any witnesses, and detailing the impact and consequences of the privacy violation.
Do not delay action because there are statutes of limitations for filing a lawsuit for unauthorized disclosure of personal information.
Taking the Next Legal Step
When planning to sue an employer in Florida, contacting a Florida employment & labor law attorney is extremely important. A lawsuit involving the disclosure of personal information is very complex. It takes experience to build and present a strong case.
Our team of diverse employment law attorneys share the same passion for helping people and work diligently to ensure you get the best results.
Please Note: At the time this article was written, the information contained within it was current based on the prevailing law at the time. Laws and precedents are subject to change, so this information may not be up to date. Always speak with a law firm regarding any legal situation to get the most current information available.