What Is Invasion of Privacy?

“Invasion of privacy” is an umbrella term for tort claims based on violations of an individual’s privacy rights.  The Restatement (Second) of Torts identifies four separate causes of action that qualify as invasion of privacy:  (1) intrusion upon seclusion; (2) appropriation; (3) publication of private facts; and (4) false light publicity.

Minnesota law recognizes three of the four types of invasion of privacy claims:  (1) intrusion upon seclusion; (2) appropriation; and (3) publication of private facts.  Minnesota does not recognize a claim for false light publicity.  In Lake v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the Minnesota Supreme Court refused to recognize false light publicity claims because they are similar to defamation claims and because of potential tension with First Amendment rights.  582 N.W.2d 231 (Minn. 1998).  However, the Minnesota Supreme Court in Lake recognized the other three types of invasion of privacy claims and described them as follows:

  1. Intrusion Upon Seclusion:  Intrusion upon seclusion occurs when one person intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon the solitude or seclusion of another or upon his or her private affairs or concerns, and the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.
  2. Appropriation:  Appropriation protects an individual’s identity.  This tort occurs when one person appropriates to his or her own use or benefit the name or likeness of another.
  3. Publication of Private Facts:  Publication of private facts occurs when one person gives publicity to a matter concerning the private life of another, and the matter publicized is of a kind that:  (a) would be highly offensive to a reasonable person; and (b) is not of legitimate concern to the public.

Takeaway for Employers:  Invasion of privacy claims can sometimes arise in the employment context.  Familiarity with the three types of invasion of privacy claims recognized in Minnesota should help employers avoid potential liability.

About Michael Miller

Michael is a Chambers-rated attorney in Briggs and Morgan's Employment, Benefits, and Labor group and is head of the firm’s Employment Law Counseling and Compliance practice group. He has 25 years experience counseling employers to prevent unwanted litigation and advises companies of ongoing changes in federal, state and local employment law. Michael advises employers in all areas of employment law including discipline and discharge, leaves of absence, wage and hour compliance, non-compete and confidentiality agreements, affirmative action plans, background checking, and drug/alcohol testing. For Michael's full bio, click here.

Posted on March 6, 2012, in Privacy Rights and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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