Though the case is headed to the Supreme Court in a few months, police currently have the legal right to place GPS tracking devices on the vehicles of suspected perps. But are employers able to do the same to their employees when they suspect foul play?
According to the NY Appeals Court and Magistrate David Noce, a Missouri federal judge, the answer appears to be “yes.” In both the New York and Missouri court cases, defendants were fired from their positions for forging time and expense sheets after a GPS tracker was placed on their vehicles. In both cases, the axed workers argued that it was a violation of their privacy under the 4th Amendment because the trackers were placed onto their personal vehicles, as opposed to a company-owned car.
In both cases the judges ruled that the tracking was perfectly legal because it didn’t breach any privacy expectations. According to the ruling, there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy for a person’s movement in public. And since the GPS trackers were attached to the vehicles with a magnet, there was no damage or forced entry. Therefore, it never constituted a search, which the 4th Amendment would protect against.
“Installation of the GPS tracker device was non-invasive; a magnetic component of the GPS tracker device allowed it to be affixed to the exterior of the [car] without the use of screws and without causing any damage to the exterior of the [vehicle],” wrote Magistrate Noce. “The GPS tracker device was installed when the [car] was on a public street near the defendant’s residence. Installation of the GPS tracker device revealed no information to the agents other than the public location of the vehicle. Under these circumstances, installation of the GPS tracker device was not a search within the meaning of the 4th Amendment.”
Also, since the tracking was being carried out during working hours when the employee was being paid for his time, the NY judge found that it was indeed constitutional to track the location of the employee’s vehicle and to use that information against him.
So next time you try to write off those three hours in the local pub as a business expense, think again. Your boss might be smarter than you think.