Employment-PA Court Rules, In A Worker’s Compensation Case, That There Is No Expectation Of Privacy When Praying In A House Of Worship

In Tagouma v. Investigative Consultant Services, Inc., 2010 PA Super 147 (August 10, 2010), an employee, Ahmed Tagouma, had fallen at work, suffering an acute fracture of his right hand. He was later diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD). The employee sought workers’ compensation benefits, and his employer contested the claim. While the claim was pending, the workers’ compensation carrier retained the defendants to perform surveillance on the employee.

The defendants took video tape pictures of the employee while he was praying at the Al-Hikmeh Institute in the Islamic Center of PA. The Center is situated just to the rear of two businesses that sit, respectively, just in front of it to its left and just in front of it to its right, making it difficult for passersby to see the Center. At the time the pictures were taken, however, the employee was in plain view from the street. The employee brought this suit against the defendants, on the grounds of invasion of privacy and intrusion on seclusion. The lower court dismissed the employee’s suit and the employee appealed.

The Superior Court said that the employee has failed to show that he had an expectation of privacy while praying in public. First, the employee had a diminished expectation of privacy because of his workers’ compensation claim. Second, it is undisputed that the Islamic Center was open to the public and employee was praying directly in front of a plate glass window. The foregoing obtains even though the defendants used vision-enhanced photographic equipment to take the video pictures. As such, the Superior Court affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of employee’s suit.