A federal appeals court ruled Friday that Consolidated Freightways Corp. (CF) employees can bring invasion-of-privacy claims against the trucking company for putting surveillance devices in restrooms.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision that said CF couldn't be sued because its employees bargained away privacy rights under their labor contract. The full appeals court ruled California's privacy laws overrule any provision in a union contract.
According to court documents, the company had put cameras and audio listening devices behind two-way mirrors in the restrooms at its Mira Loma, CA terminal to detect employee drug use. Employees discovered the equipment when a mirror fell off the men's restroom wall, exposing a camera, and similar equipment was found behind the women's restroom mirror.
California law says anyone who installs or maintains a two-way mirror in a restroom, hotel room or other traditionally private place is liable for a misdemeanor.
The appeals court sent the two lawsuits back to be reheard in the state court at which they were filed. Consolidated Freightways had succeeded in removing the cases to federal court in Los Angeles, where U.S. District Judge Irving Hill dismissed both in early proceedings.
CF argued that a provision of the federal Labor Management Relations Act preempted the plaintiffs' state-law privacy claim. The CF employees were members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.