As of July 2, 2015, Wisconsin law makes it a Class A misdemeanor for any individual to place a GPS device on another individual’s vehicle without the consent of the vehicle’s owner. Based on comments from the bill’s sponsors, it appears as though the goal of the new law is to protect potential victims or harassment or stalking. Given the advancements in technology, including the ability for anyone to purchase such a GPS device, measures like this are necessary to protect individual privacy rights.
While many employers may contemplate the use of GPS technology to track their employees, care must be given to jurisdictional laws which may be impacted by such use. This is particularly true when the employer does not own the vehicle or device on which the GPS technology is installed. As we have previously discussed, employers who utilize GPS tracking technology should be cognizant of potential legal issues which may arise when tracking employees during non-work hours as the employer may gain private information about an employee that may be considered an invasion into the employee’s personal privacy. Similarly, the information obtained when tracking an employee (e.g. an employee’s religious denomination based on attendance at group services; an employee’s treatment for a medical issue based on travel to and from a treatment facility, etc.) could potentially lead to employee claims of discrimination or wrongful termination based upon off-duty conduct.
Importantly, the Wisconsin law does contain a number of exemptions from liability. Specifically, the law exempts an employer or business owner acting to track the movement or location of a motor vehicle owned, leased, or assigned for use by the employer or business owner. As such, employers tracking their own vehicles, even when utilized by an employee, would not be subject to liability under the Wisconsin law.
While GPS technology may have numerous benefits for an employer, consideration should be given to potential issues, many of which may not be readily apparent, prior to implementing the use of such technology.