Georgia man resigns from job, sues boss after pocket-dialing incident

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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A man was forced to resign from his job after pocket-dialing his boss and complaining about him for about 12 minutes. He has now filed a lawsuit which brings with it questions about the expectation of privacy.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A Georgia man is suing his ex-boss after he says he was forced to resign from his state job when his boss overheard him complain about work during an inadvertent pocket dial.

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James Stephens was used to his boss, Michael Coan, calling him after hours. However, when he called him at home late one night, the call did not end as planned. For 12 minutes in a butt-dial, Coan overheard Stephens and his wife complain about his six-figure job. Stephens was given the option to resign or be fired the next day.

The Stephenses are now personally suing Coan for claims that he invaded their right to privacy through “voyeuristic eavesdropping,” that they’re alleging was felonious conduct, according to CBS News.

“You may not use an electronic device to listen into a conversation you know to be a private conversation,” said David Guldenschuh, attorney for the Stephenses.

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They argue that Coan knew the conversation was private and was legally obligated to hang up, but Coan went against the claim by filing a motion to dismiss the suit. He argues that as a state supervisor he deserves immunity, as he was listening to a pocket-dialed call of a subordinate employee.

This case brings forth many questions about expectations of privacy, according to CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman.

“What we find here is someone who really believed he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in having a very, very confidential conversation with his wife and that yet, it may not be private at all,” Klieman said.

A similar case in the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in Kentucky that someone who pocket-dials another person does not have reasonable expectation of privacy because they placed the call.

A Georgia judge must now decide if Coan was acting in his official capacity as a state supervisor and deserves immunity, or if this was a case of one private person eavesdropping on another. If the judge rules in favor of the Stephenses, the case will move forward.

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