Class-Action Lawsuit Filed Against USPS For Privacy Violations

 A 10-year employee of the U.S. Postal Service filed a lawsuit Monday accusing the agency of selling the personal information of its workers to credit card and other companies without consent.

Lance McDermott, a mechanic for mail-processing equipment, said in the U.S. District Court complaint that he has been inundated with credit card, cell phone and life insurance offers in the past two years — but that’s not what most troubles him. In some instances, it appears the Postal Service provided the companies with eight-digit employee identification numbers, used for sensitive tasks such as accessing health care records, the complaint said.

McDermott said he was deluged with offers from Visa, Sprint Nextel Corp. and other companies

McDermott’s complaint cited the Postal Service’s April 2005 “Guidelines for Privacy” handbook, which included a section on direct marketing to workers: “Growing revenue is a critical strategy for the Postal Service,” it said, and for that reason, the agency would allow companies to bid for the right to mail promotional offers to Postal Service workers. The offers arrive “cobranded” with the Postal Service’s logo

source: Associated Press

Below is the Press Release from Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro

Copy of Complaint(PDF) | Join the suit

Postal Employees Cry Foul over Alleged USPS Privacy Violations

SEATTLE- Today Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro filed a proposed class action lawsuit against the United States Postal Service (USPS) on behalf of all employees, claiming the Federal government agency has violated terms of the Privacy Act and distributed contact information of its employees to marketing partners.

According to the filed complaint USPS has allowed private businesses, as part of its Strategic Business Initiatives plan, to access and utilize its ‘employee master file’ that contains private information including home addresses of all career and non-career, full and part-time employees.

The complaint states the business initiatives plan allows private corporations to submit bids for co-branding agreements. Under these agreements the USPS logo is branded on various marketing materials and sent to the private residences of USPS employees.

“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. “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.”

Specifically Berman cites potential violations of the U.S. Privacy Act, which spells out very strict protections prohibiting employers from sharing employee information within federal agencies.

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 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 – yet it is still happening.

The plaintiff alleges he has been subject to numerous mailings of these sorts for approximately the past two years and says he was never made aware of the ‘opt-in’ ‘opt-out’ programs which USPS claims are available.

“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. “We expect a huge outpouring from postal employees throughout the U.S. who have experienced the same thing.”

The USPS is a Federal government agency that delivers mail daily to more than 300 million people at 146 million homes, businesses, and post office boxes throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam, the American Virgin Islands and American Samoa. USPS has an annual operating budget of $73 billion which is generated through sale of postage and money from other business ventures.

This class action suit seeks to recover the amounts which USPS unjustly received through the co-branding agreements and for the use of employees’ private information to be stopped.

source:  Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro