Four days after Seattle’s Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro (HBSS) law firm accused the United States Postal Service of selling the personal information of one of its employees, more than 100 additional postal employees came forward claiming they also want restitution.
“It appears that USPS is sharing sensitive employee information to a wide range of marketers, hawking everything from cell phones to credit cards,” said Steve Berman, lead attorney and managing partner of HBSS, in a statement to the press.
“Not only do we think this sort of activity is illegal, we think it sets a very bad example as the nation’s second-largest employer,” Berman continued.
Lance McDermott, a mail-processing equipment mechanic for the USPS, filed the original complaint on July 30 in the US Western District Court of Washington at Seattle. It alleged that the agency sold McDermott’s private data and the data of other workers to credit card companies and others without consent.
“There are a large number of people who are similarly situated in this case,” said Mark Firmani, a spokesman for the law firm. “Everyone who meets the class – who was affected by all of this – will be compensated, should we be successful in the lawsuit.”
McDermott claims he received private marketing materials with a USPS logo from Visa, Motorola, and Sprint-Nextel. The marketing materials contained McDermott’s personal information, which he claims USPS sold to these companies.
The Postal Service says in its Strategic Business Initiatives plan that co-branded offers and special agreements with corporations provide value to its employees. Employees can opt out of receiving such offers. However, USPS workers are not given the opportunity to sign consent forms authorizing these types of solicitations.
“Our client is outraged that an organization he has dedicated the last 10 years of his life would be so quick to sell his personal information for a quick buck,” said Berman.
According to the complaint, USPS recognizes that it is subject to the protection requirements of the Privacy Act.
The Postal Service outlines the Privacy Act’s specifications on its Web site and in its handbook. Among those is a mandate to protect the privacy of its customers, employees, individuals and suppliers, and a requirement not to disclose personal, private information from employee records without the employee’s prior written consent.
The Privacy Act specifically forbids federal agencies from releasing employee data without permission.
It says: “No agency shall disclose any record which is contained in a system of records by any means of communication to any person, or to another agency, except pursuant to a written request by, or with the prior written consent of, the individual to whom the record pertains.”