Mar. 5--Rebecca Huls was accustomed to randomly monitoring the business phone calls of her subordinates. As a claims manager at the Sacramento office of insurance giant USAA, such eavesdropping was part of her job. It allowed Huls to check the phone decorum and work performance of hundreds of claims handlers.
But one day three years ago, Huls wondered if she also could secretly listen to her boss, Bonnie Jackson. Using the monitoring equipment, she called Jackson's extension and learned that she could listen to her boss' private conversations. But she wasn't prepared for what she heard as she began routinely listening in on her boss.
Her actions have led to a series of complicated lawsuits - one of which has been thrown out of court - and have raised some new questions in the quickly changing area of privacy in the workplace.
While it's not uncommon for supervisors to monitor their subordinates' phone conversations - insurance companies, airlines, utilities and all types of customer service operations do it routinely - the notion of employees monitoring their bosses' conversation is extremely unusual.
"It's as if management installed a camera and an employee turned the camera around to shoot them," said …