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Smyth v. Pillsbury

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Citation Edit

Smyth v. Pillsbury Co., 914 F. Supp. 97 (E.D. Pa. 1996) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

Defendant maintained a corporate e-mail system used by the plaintiff. Defendant assured its employees, including the plaintiff, that e-mail sent through the system would remain confidential and could not be intercepted or used against its employees as grounds for termination or reprimand.

Plaintiff was terminated on the basis of e-mail exchanged with his supervisor transmitted over the corporate e-mail system.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

The court dismissed the plaintiff's claim for wrongful discharge stating that the plaintiff had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of his e-mail. Furthermore, the court reasoned that even if the plaintiff had a reasonable expectation of privacy, "a reasonable person would [not] consider the defendant's interception of these communications to be a substantial and highly offensive invasion of [plaintiff's] privacy." The contents of e-mail were not considered to be personal information and the company's interest in preventing inappropriate and potentially illegal activity over its e-mail system outweighed any expectation of privacy enjoyed by the plaintiff.

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