Key point 4-04. Many states recognize "invasion of privacy" as a basis for liability. Invasion of privacy may consist of any one or more of the following: (1) public disclosure of private facts; (2) use of another person's name or likeness; (3) placing someone in a "false light" in the public eye; or (4) intruding upon another's seclusion.
A federal court in New Jersey ruled that an employer may have invaded the privacy of an employee by accessing her Facebook account without permission. A registered nurse and paramedic (the "plaintiff") worked for an emergency response company. She alleged that her employer retaliated against her as a result of her union activities. She maintained an account on Facebook, a social networking website. If someone was not invited to be her Facebook "friend," he or she could not access and view postings on her Facebook "wall." Many of her coworkers were invited to be her Facebook friends. She did not invite any members of her employer's management team as friends.
The plaintiff alleged that her employer "gained access to her Facebook account by having a supervisor summon an employee, who was also one of the plaintiff's Facebook friends, into an office" and "coercing and threatening the employee into accessing his Facebook account on the work computer in the supervisor's presence." The plaintiff claimed that the supervisor viewed and copied her Facebook postings accessed through the coworker's account. One such posting contained a highly offensive and derogatory comment that the supervisor forwarded to the state board of nursing. The supervisor alleged that the company was concerned that the plaintiff's Facebook posting showed a disregard for patient safety.