State Law Claims for Intercepted Electronic Communications are Not Preempted by the Federal Electronics Communications Privacy Act because the Federal Statute Does Not Provide for Exclusive Remedies
In Ducharme v. Madewell Concrete, LLC, No. 6:20-1620-HMH, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127615 (D.S.C. July 17, 2020), Defendants Madewell Concrete, LLC and Kevin Johnston’s (“Johnston”) (collectively, “Defendants”) motion to dismiss Plaintiff Robert Ducharme’s (“Plaintiff”) South Carolina Homeland Security Act (“SCHSA”) claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) was denied.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants deliberately misclassified him as a salaried employee, which exempted him from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Accordingly, Plaintiff contends that he was not compensated for his overtime work. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Johnston illegally and without authorization accessed Plaintiff’s personal email account.
Plaintiff’s lawsuit alleges three claims: violations of (1) the Stored Communications Act, (2) the SCHSA, and (3) the FLSA.
Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s SCHSA claim is preempted by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”) because in 18 U.S.C. § 2518(10)(c), “Congress expressed clear intent that any alleged interception of any ‘electronic communications’ falls under the exclusive remedy of the [ECPA].” Accordingly, the Court describes the dispute as whether “the interception of electronic communications provisions of the ECPA preempt a claim based on the interception of electronic communications provisions of the SCHSA.”
In holding that § 2518(10)(c) does not expressly preempt state law claims, the Court noted that “Congress could have easily and explicitly stated that the remedies in the ECPA are the exclusive remedies for all interceptions of electronic communications or that the ECPA preempts state law claims, but it did not do so.” The Court went on to find that the legislative history of § 2518(10)(c) indicates that “the interceptions of electronic communications were not subject to the exclusionary rule absent a Fourth Amendment violation.” Thus, state law remedies are permissible for certain intercepts of electronic communications (such as personal emails) and “the ECPA does not preempt Plaintiff’s claim under the SCHSA. This case is a good reminder that employers should be mindful to ensure compliance with applicable state privacy laws, in addition to the well-known federal ones.