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Woman Fired For Disabling Smart Phone App That Let Boss Stalk Her 24/7
How much invasion of privacy should a worker accept from a job that pays $7250 a month? Would wearing the equivalent of an ankle bracelet be too much? Myrna Arias thought so, and lost her job over it.
When Arias accepted a job as a sales executive last year with Intermex Wire Transfer Company, she had no idea how intrusive her employer would become. She started work in February, did well, and made $7250 a month, with commission. In April, however, her boss required her and her co-workers to download an application called Xora to their smart phones.
The phones were part of the job. They had to be carried 24/7 so that the sales force could answer calls from clients at any time. Sort of a burden, but maybe not too bad, considering the pay.
There was one catch, however. The Xora app contained a global positioning system (GPS). Even though it had a “clock in/out” feature, Arias began to wonder. Turns out that the GPS function remained on even when the employees were “clocked out.”
She and the other employees went to their boss, John Stubits, and asked: Were their movements still being tracked when they were off-duty? According to the complaint that Arias ended up filing last week:
Stubits admitted that employees would be monitored while off duty and bragged that he knew how fast she was driving at specific moments ever since she installed the app on her phone…
Her manager made it clear that he was using the program to continuously monitor her, during company as well as personal time.
Stubbs knew where she went, how fast she drove, the roads she took, and how long she spent at each stop — whether she was working or not.
Arias drew the parallel between the constant monitoring of the GPS system and the ankle bracelet a prisoner is forced to wear. She told Stubits that what he was doing was illegal. The boss’ reply was that she should put up with it because of the amount of money Intermex was paying her.
In late April of 2014, Arias deleted the app. On May 5th, she was fired.
Not only did Arias lose her job, but Intermex took action to retaliate. Her employment contract specified that she could also continue her work for her previous employer for three months in order to keep health insurance coverage for a chronic condition. After she was terminated, Intermex contacted the other employer and attempted to smear her name by branding her disloyal.
On May 5th of this year, Arias filed a lawsuit in the Bakersfield County Superior Court of California. The lawsuit seeks damages for, among other things, invasion of privacy, unlawful termination, retaliation in violation of labor code, and unfair business practices. She is asking for damages “in excess of $500,000.”
In an era where Big Brother has become alarmingly real and ever-present, many workers need to keep an eye on the eventual outcome of the suit.
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