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Updated 3:00 PM August 7, 2008




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Supreme court decision protects employee confidentiality

U-M may maintain the confidentiality of the home addresses and home telephone numbers of its employees, the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled.

The July 16 decision concludes a lawsuit brought in 2004 by the Michigan Federation of Teachers (MFT). The suit challenged the University's position that certain employee information is protected by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The University argued that employee home addresses and telephone numbers are protected from public disclosure because they are private confidential information exempt under FOIA.

"In reaching its conclusion, the court recognized the significant potential for abuse of information of where a person lives and how that person may be contacted, and that the public disclosure of such information may pose a serious risk of harm to the identified individuals," says Debra Kowich, assistant general counsel for the University.

In February the Michigan Press Association filed an amicus brief in support of the MFT's position. Previously, amicus briefs supporting the U-M position had been filed by 10 other universities in the state, the Office of the Attorney General of Michigan and Wayne County.

The case originally was heard by Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Connors, who granted the University's motion for summary judgment in October 2004. The MFT appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower court's decision in March 2007 and sent the case back to the Circuit Court. The University filed its appeal of that decision to the Michigan Supreme Court in May 2007.

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