Department of Labor Employee Says State Illegally Spied on Him


Michael Cunningham was fired from his job at the New York Department of Labor in August 2010 after working for the state for 30 years. The D.O.L. suspected Cunningham of committing time-sheet violations and once they accrued enough evidence to confirm their suspensions they terminated his employment. How they gained that evidence, however, has become a matter of contention. Wired reports that Cunningham’s employers implanted a GPS device into his car to trace his every move. Cunningham and the ACLU have filed a petition against the state, and they are currently awaiting a ruling from the appeals court.

The GPS device was installed in 2008 while Cunningham’s car was parked in a state parking lot. “The device tracked [the Cunningham family’s] car movements at night, on the weekend and during a vacation they took to Massachusetts between June 30 and July 3.” The Department of Labor says they suspected Cunningham was claiming pay hours for time he hadn’t worked and so the Inspector General’s office placed the device in his car to investigate. Cunningham believes he was targeted for complaining to the Inspector General’s office about a religious event:

Cunningham had reported Mary L. Hines, deputy commissioner for administration and public affairs, to the inspector general’s office after she sent an e-mail to other officials attempting to increase worker attendance at the breakfast. Cunningham said he was subsequently subjected to various punishments from his supervisors in retaliation for his action.

At the appeals court an assistant solicitor general said that the measures the D.O.L. took were intrusive, but were justified due to Cunningham’s “pattern of misconduct.” The ACLU claims this type of surveillance isn’t just dubious; it’s against the state constitution.

The New York branch of the ACLU’s Corey Stoughton told Wired, “They can have all the cause they want, there can be a slam-dunk case in theory, but nonetheless the government simply doesn’t have the power to track the movement of people and their families in their private cars 24 hours a day just to uncover more evidence of workplace misconduct.”

Everyone worries about their bosses looking over their shoulder at work, is it time to worry about them covertly installing a tracking device in your car?

N.Y. Worker Accuses State of Illegal GPS Spying [Wired]