Employee uninstalls employer’s GPS app that tracked movements 24 hours-a-day, gets fired

Employee uninstalls employer’s GPS app that tracked movements 24 hours-a-day, gets fired
Just because you feel like someone is watching you means they really could be, it seems. Intermex is a money transfer service which specializes in money transfers to Latin America.

Former sales executive from central California, Myrna Arias, worked out of the firm’s Bakersfield office. Myrna and her colleagues were required to have a job-management app, Xora (now ClickSofrware) installed on their company-issued iPhones.

However, after researching the app and its capabilities, Arias uninstalled the app because it enabled her supervisor, John Stubits, to monitor everyone’s movements, even when they were not working. Arias was subsequently fired. Xora had a “clock-in/clock-out” feature, but that did not enable or disable the GPS tracking of the app. Stubits admitted that employees would be monitored while off duty and even bragged to people about knowing their locations, and how fast they were driving.

To her credit, Arias did not object to the app’s use when she was working, but as her lawsuit against Intermex contends about monitoring of activities outside of work, “This intrusion would be highly offensive to any reasonable person.”

Arias filed a lawsuit against Intermex, seeking more than $500,000 in damages and alleges invasion of privacy, retaliation, and unfair business practices among other violations. She further claims that she was even monitored on the weekends when she was not working.

While this looks like a slam-dunk lawsuit, the fact that these were company issued (and presumably owned) devices raises legitimate questions about the assertions against the business practices, and even the employment status. California is an “at will” employment state, meaning that employees can quit with or without notice, for any reason, or no reason whatsoever. However, that same rule applies for the employer as well.



source: Ars Technica

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44 Comments

1. Doakie

Posts: 2478; Member since: May 06, 2009

If she didn't like it monitoring her while she was off the clock she could have just turned the phone off.........

3. 14545

Posts: 1835; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

Either that, or leave it at work. I do agree it is an invasion of privacy, but there are/were ways around this. Now, if one had to have the phone on their person at all times, and they weren't privy to this monitoring beforehand, then I think she has a slam dunk case. I think there are still things here that need to be laid out for full disclosure.

5. sgodsell

Posts: 7369; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

That woman was a fool. The company owns the device in the first place. Don't touch the software on company owned devices. She should have just bought even a cheap phone to use, or buy another iPhone for her own use. She doesn't have much of a case.

15. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

The company has every right to monitor her movement when she's at work/working, but NOT when she clocks out of the app. Unless somehow pertinent to the company, there's no reason at all why the boss should have "monitored [employees] while off duty" or "brag to people about knowing their location". That's not why the phones are given to them. The fact that she had to research the app's capabilities also suggests that she was never fully briefed on the extent of the app's functionality, meaning she may have been tracked for a period of time without any knowledge, which once again shows negligence on the employer's part. She might not win, but she does have a good case, especially since her employer already admitted he tracks his off duty employees for funsies. "This intrusion would be highly offensive to any reasonable person" - I agree with her completely

6. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

Agreed. I could see her point if she had to leave the phone on/ keep it with her 24/7 for an on-call kind of thing, or if it was her own phone. But that isn't the case here. I'm sure the same thing would happen if someone disabled the GPS device on their service vehicles as well. In both cases, the devices belong to the employer. Unless she was required to keep it with her at all times, there's no reason she couldn't, as others have said, either shut it off or leave it at work.

20. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

I'm not a business owner, but I suspect most companies know their employees use their company phones as their main/only device. Some employers may even encourage it. On the other hand, a company car/van is pretty much used exclusively for work/business related tasks. There's not really a problem with having smartphone GPS and other metrics always enabled, but if the employee is off duty, that information should only be accessed when absolutely necessary aka never. A couple of years ago a school district was sued (successively) because it used a laptop's webcam to spy on students. Just like the woman in this case, 1. the student was not previously aware that he could be spied on and 2. the school district had no legitimate reason for spying on the student (other than we paid for it and therefore we can). But then again (according to sgodsell), the student should have left his computer in his locker or shut it off when he got home. He's a damn fool

31. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

But you see right there, she making a choice to use that phone for personal use. Someone else here mentioned that she made over $7000 a month, could she not afford a personal phone? Knowing your location is one thing, but actually viewing/spying on them is another. The person doing the spying could've ended up essentially viewing child pornography on top of it if they saw the child naked. I'd say that situation was more serious than this one. This one involved an adult and location tracking, that one involved children and webcams.

36. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

The case with the student was more severe, but at the end of the day the same privacy rights were violated. Age may have played a latent function with jurers, but the student would have won even if he was in college.

38. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

Not the same privacy rights. Knowing your location is one thing, watching someone is another. Watching someone, and recording someone without their knowledge is an actual crime, not sure if it's a felony or misdemeanor, but that is more severe than knowing someone's location. But again, there were better ways for her to handle this situation. Talking to her employer or to a lawyer and going through legal channels, not just taking it upon herself to make the change. And if it violates her privacy rights, doesn't it also violates her coworker's privacy rights? What she did satisfied her situation, but it did nothing for them. Had she gone about it the way I described, that would've made things right for coworkers as well. And in doing so, if there were repercussions, she would've been better protected under whistle blower protections. What she did was rash, and with a modicum of patience, the situation could've been resolved and allowed her to keep her job.

16. mmmanuuu

Posts: 403; Member since: Nov 05, 2013

Just turn off the damn GPS. PERIOD !!!!

27. bloopsound

Posts: 4; Member since: Oct 31, 2014

Typically the only reason an employer gives a phone is so they can be on call or communicated with 24/7. It completely defeats the purpose of a company phone when you turn it off or leave it at work.

28. DonkeySauce

Posts: 194; Member since: Dec 03, 2011

Exactly. Since it was a work issued phone, turn it off after work and use a personal phone.

29. JunitoNH

Posts: 1946; Member since: Feb 15, 2012

Amen, why not get your on phone.

30. Medicdroid1

Posts: 12; Member since: Dec 12, 2013

Exactly

2. joeytaylor

Posts: 957; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

why not turn the phone off when clocked out and leave it at home...but if she was using it for personal use as well...then she should abide by the companies rules

4. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

Right? I'm not sure this is really the "slam dunk lawsuit" the author says it is, especially since the phone is basically company property. If you don't like being tracked, buy your own phone.

22. hound.master

Posts: 1044; Member since: Feb 27, 2015

Yeah the truth is if you use your company device for personal work then it's not personal she gets nothing from her lawsuit against the company.

7. alouden unregistered

It seems like a slam dunk case. But it is a work-issued phone and the app is a job management app linked to the work-issued phone. So the company are within their rights to tell her what she can and cannot do to their phone. She could have turned it off or left it home, as folks have said above. It is an invasion of privacy, but she does not have to be party to it outside work hours. Still, it seems a bit heavy-handed to fire her. Did they warn her?

12. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

I don't see how it's a slam dunk. She violated her company's policies and altered her company's equipment. As you have stated, she didn't have to keep it with her wherever she went, and she could've turned it off as well. If she was making $7250 a month, she could surely afford a personal phone to use off hours. But either way, having that app was a requirement of her employment, and she violated it and made changes to equipment that wasn't hers to do that with, but her company's property. It wasn't within her power to make that decision, and she was fired. For all we know, there were other factors that led to her termination. Maybe she wasn't a great employee to begin with, I don't know. But if she violates company policy, why shouldn't she be let go?

45. alouden unregistered

I should have said "it WOULD HAVE SEEMED." It is certainly not a slam dunk case. Since it's not her phone, it's the opposite, really. You're right, there may have been other factors leading to termination.

8. SemiFinal

Posts: 117; Member since: Jul 26, 2014

Are you guys serious? Why are you siding against her? She didn't know it tracked her movements when she got the phone. She should have brought it up with the employer though instead of deleting but she is still not in the wrong.

9. KPres

Posts: 1; Member since: May 11, 2015

I'm on her side, but $500,000? Give me a break. It didn't cause her that damage, not even close. Maybe $500 would be fair.

10. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

Well, $500 and her job back, I assume you mean. According to the source she was making $7,250 a month, that's a decent amount to miss (before taxes, at least...)

14. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

Making that amount per month, why the hell didn't she just get a personal phone?

19. joevsyou

Posts: 1091; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

When a job gives you a phone to take home, you usually are required to be able get hold of at all times so just turning it off isn't always a option

33. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

So like I've said in other posts, talk to the company first. Inform them that they may have a legal issue on their hands by doing this. But talk to them first, don't take action that she had no authority to take. And as a last straw, tell them that either they find a way to shutoff the phone while employees are off hours, or the phone gets left at the office. She's not breaking policy or modifying their equipment in that scenario.

18. joevsyou

Posts: 1091; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

legal fees, lost wages for being jobless in CA where cost of living can be high. Ya $500k sounds right

25. SemiFinal

Posts: 117; Member since: Jul 26, 2014

She is fired, for sure. 500,000 will keep her afloat until she finds another job

13. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

It wasn't her choice to make. If she didn't want to follow her company's policy, she should've found another job. It wasn't her personal device. My brother used to do inspections for a fire alarm company. His service vehicle had GPS tracking on it. You're telling me if he disabled it, he shouldn't expect to be fired? He kept his vehicle at his residence per his employer. So there really isn't any difference here. She could've easily picked up a phone for her personal use, and considering she made over $7000 a month, it's not like she couldn't afford it. But you don't just go making changes to something that isn't yours to begin with. Was the company's reaction severe? Probably, but we don't know if there are other factors in play either. As you said, she should've talked with her superiors about it before deleting the app. That is on her. She knew it was a requirement of employment, and she chose to disregard it.

23. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

That depends. Was he allowed to use the car for personal trips (i.e. during weekends and vacations)? If he has permission to use the car when he's not working, I don't see why his whereabouts are any of their concern. I'd prefer using 1 free iPhone for work and personal versus two of the exact same phones (with me paying for the 2nd one)

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