No anonymous employment lawsuits allowed

Sometimes, filing a lawsuit and airing dirty laundry in a public forum can be embarrassing and uncomfortable for an employee.

That doesn’t give her the right to bring the case using a pseudonym, a federal court has ruled.

That’s a small victory for employers. Otherwise, they would have to bear the brunt of anonymous charges while the employee or former employee would be able to avoid the limelight.

Recent case: “Jane Doe” is a former employee of the U.S. Department of Interior.

Back in 2011, she entered into a settlement agreement after filing a complaint. That agreement included a provision that her temporary appointment would be converted into a permanent one, based in the Twin Cities area.

Jane alleged that when her boss retired, a new supervisor told her that she didn’t want to have an office in Minnesota.

The new boss allegedly subjected Jane to verbal abuse and harassment and then closed the Twin Cities office. That meant Jane lost her job.

However, Jane claimed that similarly situated male employees were retained after the office closed.

When she filed the lawsuit, Jane asked to remain anonymous—or that the court call her Franchesca V.

The Department of the Interior asked the court to order her to amend the complaint and use her real name.

Jane argued that courts have carved out several exceptions to the general rule that one must use one’s real name in a lawsuit, and one is challenging governmental activity.

The court said she could only proceed using her real name. It said this is a typical employment discrimination case and not one where highly sensitive information would be embarrassing or essentially violate her basic right to privacy.

She will have to amend the complaint and use her real name or drop the lawsuit. (Doe v. Zinke, DC MN, 2018)