An anonymous reader writes: A court of appeals for the federal circuit has upheld a ruling (PDF) against a man who sued his former employer for Googling his name before firing him. He had accused his former employer of participating in "ex parte" communications — off-the-record communications that are used to play a part in the final outcome of a decision — that ultimately affected the decision to fire him from his job. However, the three-judge panel ruled that an ex parte communication did not occur in the case when the employer used Google.
The man in question, David Mullins, was a government employee at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Weather Forecast Office in Indianapolis, IN. Through a series of events, Mullins' employer found that he had misused his government vehicle and government funds for his own purposes — such as sleeping in his car and falsifying hotel documents to receive reimbursements, withdrawing unauthorized amounts of cash from the company card, traveling to destinations sometimes hundreds of miles away from where he was supposed to be (and using his company card to fill up on gas there), and spending company time to visit friends and/or his children. Mullins' supervisor provided a 23-page document listing 102 separate instances of misconduct.
Mullins took issue with a Google search that Capell performed just before authorizing his firing. During this Google search, Capell found that Mullins had been fired from his previous job at the Smithsonian Institution and had been removed from Federal Service by the Air Force. Mullins argued that his right to fundamental fairness was violated when Capell performed the search and that she committed perjury when she stated that the search did not influence her decision to fire him.