West Virginia Privacy laws & HR compliance analysis

West Virginia Privacy: What you need to know

West Virginia recognizes all four common-law invasion-of-privacy claims:
• Intrusion upon solitude or seclusion;
• Public disclosure of private facts (e.g., unreasonable publicity given to one's private life);
• False light privacy (e.g., publicity that normally places the other in a false light before the public); and
• Appropriation of one's name or likeness (Crump v. Beckley Newspapers, Inc., 320 S.E.2d 70 (W.Va. 1983)).
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The West Virginia Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act prohibits any person from intercepting, procuring, using, or disclosing any wire, oral, or electronic communication, subject to certain exceptions. Employers may monitor communications that are carried out with certain kinds of equipment in the ordinary course of business. In addition, the law is not violated if such information is ordered to be disclosed by a court order, the person intercepting the communication is a party to the communication, or prior consent is given by one of the parties. Violation of this law is a felony and may result in a fine of up to $10,000, 5 years in prison, or both. Violators also may be sued for civil damages, including punitive damages (WV Code Sec. 62-1D-1 et seq.).
The West Virginia Supreme Court upheld a $500,000 jury verdict, including $400,000 in punitive damages, against a hotel that recorded the conversations of employees and guests with hidden microphones. The employer argued that the plaintiff, a desk clerk, had no expectation of privacy because he worked in a public space, but the court ruled that even employees working in public spaces can reasonably expect not to be secretly recorded (Bowyer v. Hi-Lad, Inc., 609 S.E.2d 895 (W.Va. 2004)).

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