What can I do about a former employee spreading confidential information regarding my termination?

UPDATED: Oct 17, 2011

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What can I do about a former employee spreading confidential information regarding my termination?

I was recently fired due to an accusation made from an employee of mine. The claims made against me were false but since I am an at will employee I understand that there is not much I can do about that. I was told by my boss that any information regarding the accusations against me, as well as the investigation that took place would be confidential. He assured me that the only information anyone would be given is that I no longer was employed there. 2 days after my termination an employee began telling other employees that I got fired do to sexual harassment. What can be done?

Asked on October 17, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Minnesota


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

1) If there was an actual confidentiality agreement or nondisclosure agreement, either as stand alone agreements or as part of a larger agreement (e.g. a separation and release agreement), you could enforce the terms of that agreement and/or sue for damages for its breach.

2) If there is no agreement, but the promise of confidentiality led you to take some action to your detriment--e.g. you resigned because you promised confidentiality if you did--that may be enough to make the promise binding, and again, you could seek to enforce it or seek damages.

However, (3) if there was no actual agreement, and also you did not give up something valuable or do something to your detriment in reliance on a promise of confidentiality, then you cannot force them to keep this in confidence. The law does not enforce most promises; only those embodied in a contract/agreement or where  a person acted to his/her detriment in reasonable reliance on the promise, when the other party knew he/she would do that.

4) If the statements made about you are false factual statements (so, neither opinions nor true factual statements), you may have a claim for defamation against the person(s) making the statement and possibly the employer as well. If you think this may be the case, you should speak with a personal injury attorney.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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