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U.S. Supreme Court and State Legislatures Address Privacy Issues in the Workplace

A loaded question, admittedly, but the answer for the Supreme Court, once again, is no.

In Federal Aviation Administration v. Cooper, No. 10-1024 (March 28, 2012), the Supreme Court had to decide whether individuals may recover actual damages under the Privacy Act for sustaining mental or emotional distress. 5 U.S.C. §552a(g)(4)(A). Writing for the majority in a 5-3 decision, (which did not involve Justice Kagan), Judge Alito dispatched with all suspense by first declaring the holding that the Act does not provide for such remedies. The Privacy Act bears unique qualities. It covers the activities of Executive Branch agencies who hold confidential records. The Act permits an individual to file a civil suit against an agency over "intentional or willful" violations of the Act. 5 U.S.C. §552a(g)(1)(D) & 5 U.S.C. §552a(g)(4)(A). An individual can recover "actual damages" upon proving that an agency has violated the requirements of the Act "in such a way as to have an adverse effect on an individual". Id. More ›