The Pilsbury Company repeatedly provided guarantees concerning theconfidentiality of its email system. Hence, employees were assuredthat their conversations would remain private. Furthermore, thecompany informed its workers that it would never intercept any emailmessages. In this regard, employees would never be dismissed based ontheir comments over the email system. Michael Smyth was fired by thefirm for sending inappropriate messages to his supervisor. He wasemboldened by the company’s commitment to privacy andconfidentiality. It would appear as if the organization made an errorof judgment. Nevertheless, Pilsbury Company’s interest inpreventing unprofessional and inappropriate comments over its emailsystem outweighs the privacy interests of their employees.
Smyth should approach any legal cause of action based on severalfactors. Firstly, he should consider the meaning and context in whichhe used unprofessional language. In this respect, Smyth shouldexamine the company’s policies and standards of behavior. Objectiveconsideration of these factors would help him to determine whether hewas in breach of established protocols. In addition, Smyth shouldevaluate his state laws and ensure whether his claims could merit thecourt’s attention. If the existing statutes favored the company’saction, then it would be wise to seek private counsel (Baum, 2013).Smyth should also consider past precedents that could be cited in hisdefense. In particular, Borse v. Piece Goods Shop, Inc., 963F.2d 611 (3d Cir. 1992) may be used to argue his case of wrongfultermination. In the immediate case, the plaintiff filed a lawsuitagainst her employer (Acharya, Baghai, &Subramanian, 2014). The plaintiff claimed that she was fireddue to her refusal to submit to personal property searches andurinalysis screening. Although the employer was enforcing his drugand alcohol policy, the court granted the motion for wrongfuldismissal. Clay v. Advanced Computer Applications, 522 Pa. 86,88, 559 A.2d 917, 918 (1989) could also be used to prove the unfairtermination of an employee (Acharya et al., 2014).Therefore, Smyth could utilize these precedents to prove that hisdismissal would jeopardize clear mandates of public policy.
Notably, Smyth had no reasonable expectation of privacy concerningthe contents of the email. The communication network was accessibleto all workers and managers. Therefore, providing information throughsuch a system eliminated all claims to privacy. All employees wereaware of the risks involved with regards to interception.Furthermore, the email system had the capacity to store messages forfuture reference. Hence, all users knew that their communicationcould be retrieved. Moreover, Smyth willingly chose to provideinformation. His supervisor had not requested him to make personalopinions regarding any matter. The company had also not solicited forSmyth’s views concerning the firm’s activities. Consequently, areasonable person would never consider the firm’s actions as asubstantial and offensive violation of privacy.
Smyth should desist from pursuing litigation against the company. Heshould resolve the issue by seeking private discussions with thecompany’s representatives. The firm would utilize all legal meansto denounce claims that infringed on its integrity. It is quiteimpossible that Smyth could win the case when faced with theorganization’s litigation lawyers. Moreover, the suit could becometoo expensive for him such that he would not make a proper claim. Itwas not beneath the corporation to stall the hearing and raise theplaintiff’s costs. Besides, the state laws protected theorganization from liability during such cases. Pilsbury Company couldalso discredit his claims by showing how Smyth was neither subjectedto privacy searches nor urinalysis screening.
Notwithstanding, Smith could exploit the estoppel argument to provethat his actions were based on assurances provided by the company(Acharya et al., 2014). He could show howthe entity had promised neither to intercept nor retrieve emailmessages. The organization had also vowed not to use suchcommunication as a basis for punishment or dismissal. Nevertheless,the company could exploit state laws regarding termination ofemployees to override the estoppel argument (Acharya et al., 2014).The firm may also state the fact that the assurances on privacy wererelative and subjective rather than absolute and unconditional.
Besides, the privacy clause could not be used as a defense strategysince the company had the right to protect its interests. The companyhad established various policies and procedures to govern its dailyaffairs. The email network was provided to allow workers tocommunicate with each other regarding their duties and assignments.Information of a personal nature could not be shared using the emailnetwork. In this regard, the company had no liability ifinterceptions were made such that confidential information becamepublic knowledge. The firm was also obligated to protect its workersfrom physical harm, whether real or perceived. Notably, Smyth hadthreatened to kill a fellow employee. Therefore, Pilsbury Companycould argue that its actions were motivated out of concern for itsworkers.
Admittedly, Pilsbury Company had promised to respect the privacy andconfidentiality of email contents. The firm had also guaranteed thatit would not intercept or retrieve any messages that were sentthrough its network. In fact, employees received assurances that theycould not be terminated owing to their use of the email system. Inthis regard, the dismissal would appear to contradict the company’sexpressed determination to safeguard the privacy of its workers.Nevertheless, the organization can use various precedents to showthat Smyth’s dismissal did not threaten clear mandates of publicpolicy (Cusimano & Roberts, 2015). Forexample, Reuther v. Fowler & Williams, Inc., 255 Pa.Super. 28, 386 A.2d 119 (1978) would only apply if the worker wasfired for performing jury duty. Hunter v. Port Authority ofAllegheny County, 277 Pa. Super. 4, 419 A.2d 631 (1980) onlyapplied where the employee where termination was motivated by priorconvictions. Field v. Philadelphia Electric Company, 388 Pa.Super. 400, 565 A.2d 1170, 1180 (1989) could also apply in the casewhere a worker was victimized for reporting illegal actions to theNuclear Regulatory Commission (Meyer, O`Melveny, Garrison, &Smoler, 2015) Since Smyth’s case did not fall under these threeexceptions, Pilsbury Company would be excused for terminating theiremployee.
Indeed, the company was justified in undermining its privacy clauseswhile addressing the use of its email system. Smyth had madeunprofessional and inappropriate comments that warranted retributiveaction. Notably, he had no reasonable expectation of privacy sincethe email system was used by all employees. Hence, it was possiblethat some emails may be intercepted either accidentally orpurposefully. Furthermore, Smyth had willingly decided to provideinformation that would be deemed inappropriate and unprofessional.Also, he was not coerced to state his opinions on various matters.Hence, a reasonable person would not expect his privacy to be upheldunder such circumstances. In addition, the firm had the right toprotect its interests against the unprofessional actions of one ofits employees. Smyth threatened to kill one of his co-workers. Healso associated the company with illegal drugs while describing aprevious party. Consequently, Smyth has no legal course against thejustified actions of Pilsbury Company.
Acharya, V. V., Baghai, R. P., & Subramanian,K. V. (2014). Wrongful discharge laws and innovation. Reviewof Financial Studies, 27(1),301-346.
Baum, C. L. (2013). Employee Tenure and EconomicLosses in Wrongful Cases. Journal ofForensic Economics, 24(1),41-66.
Cusimano, G. S., & Roberts, M. L. (2015).Wrongful Employment Termination. AlabamaTort Law, 1.
Meyer, C., O`Melveny, M. K., Garrison, J. D., &Smoler, A. (2015). Miscellaneous Common Law Causes of Action in theWorkplace. Employee Rights Litigation:Pleading and Practice, 2.