Court: Not Illegal to Google Your Employees
Three federal judges recently upheld a decision by the Merit Systems Protection Board that says a fired federal employee wasn’t harmed when an official used Google to research his prior work history.
The decision by the federal judges stemmed from the 2005 firing of David M. Mullins, an employee of the U.S. Commerce Department. Mullins was fired for misusing a government vehicle and credit card and falsifying travel documents.
After he was fired, Mullins appealed to the MSPB, a Washington-based independent quasi-judicial agency established to ensure adequate protection for employees against abuses by agency management.
In his appeal, Mullins contended that Valeria Capell, the Commerce Department official who was assigned to investigate the allegations against him, violated his "right to fundamental fairness" by using information about his prior work history that was gleaned from a Google search on Mullins’ name. Information from the search engine showed that Mullins had been fired from the Smithsonian Institution and from a civil service job with the U.S. Air Force.
The official argued that she didn't decide to fire Mullins based on his Google history, but because he was just a spectacularly bad employee who misused government vehicles on 78 different occasions.