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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Protects Public Employees’ Right to Privacy Concerning Home Addresses

October 31st, 2016

By John R. Bielski

Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the Pennsylvania Constitution prohibits the release of public school employees’ home addresses when requested under the Right to Know Law.Supreme Court Protects Public Employees’ Right to Privacy Concerning Home Addresses

The decision, PSEA v. Commonwealth, represents a significant victory for all public employees in the Commonwealth as it prohibits the release of personal, private information of public employees unless the government can demonstrate a compelling reason for its disclosure.

In reaching its conclusion, the Court reiterated that the Pennsylvania Constitution provides a right to privacy, which includes a right to be let alone. Thus, the release of a public employee’s home address necessitates weighing the public employee’s privacy right against any governmental interest in disclosing such information.

Applying the balancing test to the facts of the case, the Court found that “public school employees have strong privacy interest in protecting their home addresses from disclosure.” The Court concluded that there existed “no public benefit or interest to disclosure in response to such generic requests for irrelevant person information of these particularly public employees who have undertaken the high calling of educating our children.”

The Court rejected the idea public school employees forfeited their right to privacy over the release of their home addresses when they chose to become public employees.

While the case involved public school teachers, the ruling applies to any public employees in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, since all such employees are subject to the possible disclosure of private, personal information through a Right to Know Law request.

 

 


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