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Warning: Employee location tracker that works 24/7 may invite litigation

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

In a development that could be the handwriting on the wall for some employers, Intermex Wire Transfer is facing a lawsuit filed in California state court by an employee who was allegedly terminated in retaliation for uninstalling a smartphone application that included GPS tracking operational even during her off-work hours because she believed it invaded her privacy. To make matters worse, Intermex purportedly contacted the other company for which she simultaneously worked, prompting her termination from that job too.

Intermex hired the employee as a Sales Executive, Account Manager, according to the complaint. At the time she was hired, she said she received permission from Intermex to continue working for NetSpend for a period of time so that she could continue receiving ongoing medical care under NetSpend’s medical insurance benefit until she became eligible for similar benefits at Intermex.

24/7 location tracking. About two months later, in April 2014, Intermex allegedly asked the employee and her coworkers to download an application for their smartphones—Xora—which included GPS tracking. (Xora is a mobile-worker management application.) When the employee and others questioned whether Intermex would be monitoring their movements when they were off-duty, the regional vice president (RVP) of sales answered in the affirmative and bragged that he could tell how fast the employee was driving at specific points in time ever since the app was installed on her smartphone, according to the complaint.

The employee allegedly told the RVP that she objected to the monitoring of her location during non-work hours because it invaded her privacy. According to the complaint, the RVP told her that she should tolerate it because Intermex was paying her more than was NetSpend. He confirmed that she was supposed to keep her smartphone turned on around the clock so that she could take calls from clients.

Retaliation. In late April, the RVP scolded the employee for uninstalling the application, the complaint alleges. She was fired on May 5, within a few weeks of first complaining that the application invaded her privacy.

And there’s more. As if being fired from Intermex was not enough, the employee also believes that Intermex’s president and CEO telephoned the vice president of NetSpend and told him that the employee had been disloyal and was also working for Intermex. NetSpend promptly fired the employee, citing the phone call from Intermex as the reason, the according to the complaint.

Claims asserted. The employee asserted several claims against Intermex: invasion of privacy, retaliation, intentional interference with contract, negligent interference with prospective economic relationships, wrongful termination in violation of public policy, unfair business practices, and claims under California’s Private Attorney General Act. She is seeking general and special damages, punitive damages, injunctive relief, attorneys’ fees, and costs. She alleges that her economic damages include lost earnings and wages in excess of $500,000.

The complaint, Arias v. Intermex Wire Transfer, LLC, was filed on May 5 in the Superior Court of California, County of Bakersfield.