Hillstone Restaurant Group v. Pietrylo

NOTE: The information and commentary contained in this database entry are based on court filings and other informational sources that may contain unproven allegations made by the parties. The truthfulness and accuracy of such information is likely to be in dispute. Information contained in this entry is current as of the last event mentioned in the "Description" section below; additional proceedings might have taken place in this matter since this event.

Summary

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Date: 

05/09/2006

Status: 

Concluded

Location: 

New Jersey

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
Brian Pietrylo and Doreen Marino filed a lawsuit against their former employer, Hillstone Restaurant Group d/b/a Houston's, following their termination for posting comments critical of the company on a private MySpace page. According to court documents, Pietrylo "setup a private group on... read full description
Parties

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Brian Pietrylo; Doreen Marino

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Location of Party: 

  • New Jersey

Location of Party: 

  • New Jersey

Legal Counsel: 

Fred J. Pisani - Ramp & Pisani
Description

Brian Pietrylo and Doreen Marino filed a lawsuit against their former employer, Hillstone Restaurant Group d/b/a Houston's, following their termination for posting comments critical of the company on a private MySpace page.

According to court documents, Pietrylo "setup a private group on his myspace account." Compl. ¶ 4.  His initial posting explained that the group, called the "Spec-Tator" would allow invitees to "vent about any BS we deal with out [sic] work without any outside eyes spying in on us. . . . Let the shit talking begin." Opinion at p.1. Pietrylo maintains that neither he nor any other "member of the group accessed the private group during work hours." Compl. ¶ 4.

Pietrylo and Marino claim that the managers of Houston's gained access to the page only after they "strong-armed and threatened a member of the private group so that this member was forced into providing them with the member's email address and password." Compl. ¶ 8 . On May 9, 2006, Houston's management terminated his employment and "told him that he was being fired solely for operating and maintaining the private group." Compl. ¶ 10. Pietrylo offered to take down the group but was told "that the decision to fire him would not be reconsidered." Compl. ¶ 11. On May 10, Marino "was also terminated for the same reasons." Compl. ¶ 12.

After their termination, Pietrylo and Marino sued their former employer, arguing that its actions violated the federal Stored Communications Act and Wire Tap Act, as well as the matching New Jersey statutes. Pietrylo and Marino also claimed that management's actions constituted an invasion of privacy and a violation of freedom of speech. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 30-34, 35-36. 

On June 18, 2009, a jury found that Houston's managers had violated the Stored Communications Act and the New Jersey Wire Tapping & Electronic Surveillance Act by intentionally accessing the MySpace page without authorization. The jury found in favor of the defendants on Pietrylo's and Marino's claims for invasion of privacy, finding that the plaintiffs had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the MySpace group.

Details

Content Type: 

  • Text

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Subject Area: 

  • Employee Blogs
Court Information & Documents

Jurisdiction: 

  • New Jersey

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District Court of New Jersey

Court Type: 

Federal

Case Number: 

06-5754 (FSH)

Relevant Documents: 

CMLP Information (Private)

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

firing is threat, lawsuit is response to threat,

AVM 7/2