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Loose lips lead to liability when word of alleged employee wrongdoing leaks out

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Pennsylvania allows lawsuits for portraying someone in a false light. For employers, that means you can be sued for publicizing information relating to discipline that turns out to be inaccurate.

Thus, it makes sense to discuss discipline only with those who have a need to know.

Recent case: Wendy Chan served as the HR director for Lancaster County. Born in Taiwan, she was the only Asian county employee and the only Asian administrator in county history.

Soon, Chan was being called “Chan Dynasty” and “Princess” in apparent reference to her Chinese roots.

Just seven months into the job, Chan was placed on unpaid leave following allegations that she had violated the state’s Ethics Act. Chan said the accusations were false, but her supervisors allegedly spread the news far and wide within the county. They also publicly accused Chan of being unethical, unprofessional and of doing a poor job. Then she was terminated.

Chan sued, alleging a long list of discriminatory behavior. She also included a claim that her supervisors and the county held her out in a false light.

Chan lost her discrimination claims and did not allege enough racially or ethnically charged comments to prove a hostile work environment. But she did win the right to a trial on being held out in a false light. A jury trial on the charge carries with it the possibility of unlimited damages. (Chan v. County of Lancaster, No. 10-CV-03424, ED PA, 2011)

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John Book January 10, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Where do you get your information? Wendy Chan NEVER lost a discrimination case against anyone. Please be a little clearer with the facts or you might be held liable.

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