Confidential information released

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Confidential information released

I was suspended from work. When I
signed the suspension, I was re assured
that all information would be kept
confidential, and I would hear back in
a week. It’s been a month now, and both
other employees and even people outside
the work area have claimed they were
told I was fired. I called both my
employer and the HR department, but
both have ignored me and didn’t return
my messages. Is it legal to release all
of this information, without even
telling me? And if I am fired, is it
legal to do it without notifying me,
and making me sit here unemployed for
almost a month now?

Asked on May 26, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If the employer is releasing information which it contractually agreed to keep confidential, you could potentially sue them for breach of contract if you can show that release damaged you in some way (the law only provides compensation for losses or financial injuries you suffer; if you cannot link the release to an actual loss, you may not receive any compensation or money, making a lawsuit rather pointless).
If you have not been fired but they are telling people that you have been fired, you may be able to sue for defamation (for making an untrue statement of fact about you which damages your reputation), though you will face the same challenge in terms of providing the loss or injury you suffered and amount of compensation you are therefore due.
If they have fired you, of course, then it is not defamation to tell people that you have been. There is no law saying that an employee must be told he/she is fired before other people are told; there is even no law requiring formal firing--you can simply not be scheduled for work again. If you are not being allowed to work and the employer will not even communicate with you, you should consider yourself terminated and apply for unemployment benefits.


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