On May 30, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in County of Los Angeles v. Los Angeles County Employee Relations Commission. In that case, the state’s highest court decided the issue of whether the Service Employees International Union, Local 721 (SEIU), which is the “exclusive bargaining representative” of the county’s employees, was entitled to the addresses and phone numbers of all represented employees—even those who had not joined the union.

During negotiations with the county in 2006, the SEIU proposed amending the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the parties to require the county to provide the names, home addresses, and telephone numbers of all Los Angeles County employees who were represented by the SEIU under the “agency shop provisions”—regardless of whether the employees were members of the union. The county opposed providing this information on the basis that it would violate the privacy rights of nonmembers.

In deciding the issue, the California Supreme Court concluded that “although the County’s employees have a cognizable privacy interest in their home addresses and telephone numbers, the balance of interests strongly favors disclosure of this information to the union that represents them.”

According to Keith Watts, managing shareholder in the Orange County office of Ogletree Deakins: “While the court’s holding here was not completely unexpected, employees who saw themselves as having a reasonable expectation of privacy in their contact information will now see this ‘reasonable, although reduced, expectation of privacy’ as a further erosion of their privacy rights, even where California’s constitution—unlike the U.S. Constitution—expressly provides those rights. In addition, while the case deals with public employees who are already represented, employers can expect unions to cite this case and the California Supreme Court’s analysis in their ongoing efforts to obtain otherwise private information on unrepresented employees in the private sector, especially in organizing campaigns.”

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