Lazette v. Kulmatycki, 2013 WL 2455937 (N.D. Ohio June 5, 2013).
In this employment law case, the federal district court held that the Stored Communications Act (SCA) can apply if an employer reads personal emails from a company-issued device. When the plaintiff ended her relationship with her employer, she returned a company-issued phone but neglected to delete her personal email from the device. Almost two years later, the plaintiff learned that her former manager had read almost 48,000 of her personal emails. In addition to other causes of action, the plaintiff alleged a violation of the SCA. The defendant brought a motion to dismiss arguing that the SCA did not apply as the statute was directed at “high-tech criminals, such as computer hackers” and that even if the SCA did apply, the manager had authority to access the plaintiff’s emails, which were not in “electronic storage” when he read them. Holding that the SCA did apply to the defendant, the court noted that the SCA was designed to provide a cause of action “primarily” against computer hackers, but not “exclusively”. The court rejected the argument that the plaintiff had provided consent to read her emails because she negligently failed to delete her email from the company phone. The court did state, however, that the SCA did not prevent the plaintiff’s employer from reading emails that were opened first by the plaintiff, as long as they were not being stored for “backup protection” purposes. Due to the length of time and volume of emails involved, the court felt it fair and reasonable to draw an inference that the plaintiff’s former manager had opened some of the emails before the plaintiff did. Therefore, the court denied in part and granted in part the motion to dismiss.