AN employee sued his boss after he lost his job over a conversation that was captured by a butt-dialed phone call.
James Stephens’ boss listened in while his employee trashed him for 12 minutes during a conversation with his wife.
Stephens was having a run-of-the-mill conversation with his wife in January 2016 when he received a call from his manager Mike Coan.
“He had a tendency to call me after hours quite a bit,” Stephens, a former employee of the Georgia Subsequent Injury Trust Fund, told CBS affiliate WCAX in April 2018.
Stephens answered, and hung up before his wife, Gina, started complaining about Coan’s “intruding” calls.
She told the local outlet that she was frustrated over how often Coan would contact her husband, and the two started trashing him together.
Little did Stephens know, he had accidentally butt-dialed Coan after hanging up.
His manager heard the voices talking to one another and stepped away into a quiet room to listen to every word Stephens said.
Once the employee looked at his phone and realized what was happening, he immediately hung up.
After the incident, Stephens remembered thinking, “Oh my goodness. It’s not gonna go well,” he told the outlet.
The following day, Coan pulled him aside and said Stephens could either quit his six-figure job or be fired.
Stephens filed a civil suit against Coan that alleged his boss violated his privacy by listening into his conversation.
He and his wife argued they shouldn’t be held liable for comments that they believed were made in confidence.
“If I’m talking to my husband just to kind of de-stress… then I don’t think that should lead to termination,” Gina told the outlet.
Attorney David Guldenschuh started representing Stephens, and also said, “You may not use an electronic device to listen in to a conversation you know to be a private conversation.”
However, Coan filed a motion to dismiss the suit and argued that as a state supervisor, he should be granted immunity to listen to a pocket-dialed call of a subordinate employee.
A Gwinnett County State Court judge sided with Coan and dismissed the civil suit.
The same decision was made in a similar case in 2015, where a 6th Circuit US Court of Appeals decided that someone who pocket dials does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy because they technically placed the call.
Guldenschuh pushed back on the decision in court, and said, “We believe the court did not have all of the correct facts when it entered its decision,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“The court was of the impression these phone calls happened during regular work hours. They did not.”
He filed an appeal to the decision, but the court ruled that the initial decision was fair in a March 2019 filing.
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