Fire Inspectors Cannot Sue over City's GPS Monitoring

February 1, 2010 ( – Connecticut's highest court has ruled that two Bridgeport fire inspectors do not have a private right of action under Connecticut’s electronic monitoring statute.

Although, the state’s electronic monitoring statute prohibits an employer from electronically monitoring an employee’s activities without giving prior written notice, the court found that there is no language in the statute that entitled employees who have been monitored electronically without notice to any specific relief or remedy, either civil or administrative, SHRM reports. The court pointed out that the statute delegates all powers related to violations of the statute to the state labor commissioner, who can impose a penalty once a violation of the section has been determined through an administrative hearing, but noted that the statute does not even provide a mechanism by which an employee can report its employer to the labor commissioner for any violation of the statute.

“[T]he legislature intended the enforcement mechanism of § 31-48d to be limited to proceedings before the labor commissioner, and not to allow employees to bring civil actions,” the court wrote, according to SHRM.

The fire inspectors used city-owned vehicles to inspect buildings throughout Bridgeport for compliance with fire codes. According to the news report, the city bought new vehicles for the fire inspectors in May 2007, and without the employees’ knowledge, installed GPS devices in each of the vehicles in order to monitor the fire inspectors’ movements and locations around the city. After examining the information gathered by the GPS devices, the city brought disciplinary actions against the inspectors relating to the performance of their duties.

The fire inspectors sued the city and its fire chief, arguing that they had violated the state’s electronic monitoring statute. They did not claim that the statute provided a private cause of action for the city’s violation of the statute’s notice provisions, but that the language of the statute did not prohibit such a cause of action. The trial court dismissed the action, and the employees appealed.

The opinion is available here