Court ruling protects state workers’ privacy

Freedom Foundation fails (again) in legal battle to access birthdates, private info


OLYMPIA (Nov. 1, 2017) — The Washington Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld state employees’ right to privacy and upheld public employee unions’ appeal against the Freedom Foundation. In a unanimous decision, the court blocked the Freedom Foundation’s attempt to get state employees’ dates of birth — which in this day and age opens the door to all kinds of privacy, safety and security breaches.

The court said the Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28 and other unions proved that the state constitution’s right to privacy provision “protects state employees’ full names associated with the corresponding birthdates from public disclosure.”

“The decision is a huge victory for state employees who only want to do their job keeping Washington safe, sound and healthy,” said Tim Welch, spokesperson for the 44,000-member WFSE. “They shouldn’t have to worry about the Freedom Foundation getting and using personal information that violates the privacy, safety and security of state employees and their families.”

The Freedom Foundation is a well-funded right-wing organization with the self-declared mission of destroying unions. It refuses to disclose its donors, but over the years it has leaked out that the group’s biggest funders are national foundations set up by Republican billionaires like Harry BradleyThomas Roe, the Scaife and Walton families.

On Tuesday, the appeals court ruled:

“We hold that state employees have a constitutionally protected expectation of privacy in their full names associated with their corresponding birthdates. Because the employees have a constitutionally protected expectation of privacy, and the unions have satisfied the requirements for an order granting permanent PRA injunctions, the trial court erred by denying the unions’ motions for permanent injunctions. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

The court said the dates of birth “of individually identified state employees are not in the public interest because the do not inform the public of facts related to a government function.”

The case will go back to Superior Court, but Wednesday’s appeals court ruling is the latest of organized labor’s string of court victories against attempts by groups like the Freedom Foundation from invading public employees’ privacy.

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