The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s recent decision in Pennsylvania State Education Association vs. The Office of Open Records, 2016 Pa. LEXIS 2337, 41 I.E.R. Cas. (BNA) 1310 (Pa. Oct. 18, 2016), opens with this text:
This case involves an examination of the scope of the “personal security” exception to disclosure under the Right to Know Law (“RTKL”), 65 P.S. §§ 67.101- 67.3104, and, more specifically, whether school districts must disclose the home addresses of public school employees. Under the prior Right to Know Act, 65 P.S. §§ 66.1-66.4 (repealed, effective January 1, 2009) (“RTKA”), this Court had on three occasions ruled that certain types of information, including home addresses, implicated the right to privacy under Article 1, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and thus required a balancing to determine whether the right to privacy outweighs the public’s interest in dissemination. Sapp Roofing Co. v. Sheet Metal Workers’ Int’l Ass’n, Local Union No. 12, 713 A.2d 627 (Pa. 1998) (plurality); Pa. State Univ. v. State Employees’ Retirement Board, 935 A.2d 530 (Pa. 2007); Tribune-Review Publ. Co. v. Bodack, 961 A.2d 110 (Pa. 2008). Our task here is to determine whether this analysis continues to obtain under the RTKL. We hold that it does.
The case most directly addresses the issue of Right-to-Know Law requests for the home addresses of public agency employees (e.g., teachers) when a request is directed to their employer (e.g., school district).
But it has broader implications as well, as the right of privacy inherent in Article 1, Section 1, of the Pennsylvania state constitution (“All men are born and equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.”) also applies outside the specific context of a request for the home addresses of public agency employees directed to their employer.
You can read the majority opinion here, and a concurring opinion here.
As the Office of Open Records handles cases – both requests and appeals – dealing with the type of personal information addressed in PSEA, I’ll post our responses and decisions here in an attempt to help members of the public and public agencies navigate similar issues.
On October 19, 2016, the OOR received the following request (edited for brevity and clarity):